The Netherlands has been ordered to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 by a regional court in a case brought by a local sustainability organisation.
The ruling, seen as an historical precedent, was welcomed by environmental activists in the low-lying country, which could be effectively erased from the map if sea levels continue to rise.
"A courageous judge. This is fantastic," said Sharona Ceha, who works for the Urgenda group acting on behalf of about 900 Dutch citizens that took the government to court. "This is for my children and grandchildren."
The decision was made by Hans Hofhuis, the Presiding Judge of the Hague district court.
"The state must do more to avert the imminent danger caused by climate change, also in view of its duty of care to protect and improve the living environment," the ruling stated
"The parties agree that the severity and scope of the climate problem make it necessary to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
The current government policy requires the Netherland to slash its carbon emission by only 17 per cent by 2020 based on the 1990s levels, something the court did not consider sufficient. In most developed countries the targets are much higher between 25 and 40 per cent.
The court therefore ordered the state must "ensure that the Dutch emissions in the year 2020 will be at least 25 per cent lower than those in 1990."
Dutch government lawyers swiftly left the courtroom after the verdict and could not immediately be reached for comment, Reuters reported.