Health professionals say Dutch court ruling on climate change 'duty of care' relevant to NZ

In a world first, the Dutch court has ordered the state to reduce its climate-changing emissions by 25% (on 1990 levels) in the next five years, to protect its people from climate change.

The law suit was brought to the courts by the Urgenda Foundation, backed by 900 citizens.

The court ruled that because of the great risks posed by climate change, the State has a ‘duty of care’ to take stronger action to reduce climate change (mitigation). 

This ruling comes in the same week as a leading international medical journal The Lancet has reconfirmed climate change as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.

“The concept of ‘duty of care’ is very familiar to us as health professionals, and we welcome its application to Governments with respect to protecting citizens from the health impacts of climate change’ says Dr Alex Macmillan of The NZ Climate and Health Council.

“Like the Netherlands, New Zealand’s emissions reduction targets have been much lower than what scientists say is needed from countries to avoid dangerous levels of climate change that will be catastrophic to human health” says Dr Macmillan.

“We urge the Government to take this ruling into account as it decides what emission reduction target it will table at the UN global climate negotiations this year” says Dr Macmillan.

“The Government has to take strong climate action as part of its 'duty of care' to all New Zealanders. Doing this is also an exciting opportunity to improve health and fairness in New Zealand”.


Media Spokesperson:   Dr Alex Macmillan, Mob. 021 322 625
Alex Macmillan ([email protected]) is a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago and Co-Convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council.

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council are health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat. They also promote the positive health gains that can be achieved through action to address climate change. See:

About Climate Change and Health
See NZ specific climate-health information in the NZ Medical Journal paper:
‘Health and equity impacts of climate change in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and health gains from climate action’.

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