The government of the Netherlands has been ordered to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020, in a case environmentalists hope will set a precedent for other countries.
Campaigners brought the case on behalf of almost 900 Dutch citizens.
They argued the government had a legal obligation to protect its citizens from the dangers of climate change.
Government lawyers did not immediately comment on the ruling at the court in The Hague.
Jasper Teulings from Greenpeace called it a “landmark case”.
He says: “It shifts the whole debate. Other cases are being brought in Belgium, the Philippines. This is the start of a wave of climate litigation.”
The court ruled that based on current policy, the Netherlands would only achieve a 17% reduction at most in 2020, which is less than other nations.
“The parties agree that the severity and magnitude of climate change make it necessary to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” it said.
The lawsuit was brought under human rights laws by the sustainability foundation Urgenda, which said – and the court agreed – that the Netherlands had a duty of care to its citizens and to improve the environment.
It argued that unless rapid action was taken, the next half of this century would see extreme weather, shrinking ice caps and shortages of food and water.
Low-lying Netherlands is especially vulnerable, and must now cut its emissions by a quarter compared with 1990 levels.
Coal and gas provide much of the Netherlands’ energy needs, with the country lagging behind neighbors Denmark and Germany in the use of renewables.
The Dutch government can appeal to a higher court and it is not clear yet how the ruling will be enforced.
The European Union recently set a target of reducing emissions by 40% by 2030.
A major conference on climate change is due later this year, with negotiators aiming to strike a global deal limiting temperature increases to no more than two degrees over pre-industrial levels.
Two jets carrying bodies from crashed Malaysia Airlines plane have landed in the Netherlands where a day of mourning for the 298 victims has been declared.
Experts there will begin to identify the dead, most of whom were Dutch.
Pro-Russian rebels have been widely accused of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines plane on July 17.
UK government sources say intelligence shows rebels deliberately tampered with evidence, moving bodies and placing parts from other planes in the debris.
As fighting continued in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, officials in Kiev said that two aircraft, thought to be military jets, had been downed just 20 miles from the MH17 crash site.
The officials had no information on the cause of the crashes, or the fate of the pilots.
Planes carrying bodies from crashed MH17 flight have landed in the Netherlands (photo EPA)
US intelligence officials had earlier released evidence to the media that they said showed the separatists’ involvement in bringing down flight MH17.
Rebels have also been accused of exaggerating the number of bodies transported from the crash site to the town of Kharkiv on Tuesday.
They had claimed 282 bodies had been loaded on to a train, but experts said only 200 could be verified.
The two military planes – one Dutch and the other Australian – carrying the first 40 coffins landed at Eindhoven air base to be met by members of the Dutch royal family, PM Mark Rutte and hundreds of victims’ relatives.
Churches around the Netherlands rang their bells for five minutes before the planes landed.
A fleet of hearses was standing by to convey the bodies to the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks south of the city of Hilversum for identification.
PM Mark Rutte said that process could take months.
Earlier, the coffins had been slowly loaded on to the planes by a military guard of honor at Kharkiv airport in eastern Ukraine.
Ambassadors, officials and soldiers gathered to see off the planes.
Australian government envoy Angus Houston said the ceremony was intended to give the victims the “respect and dignity they deserve” after a “tragedy of unspeakable proportions”.
In a separate process, the “black box” flight-data recorders from MH17 have arrived in the UK, where they will be examined at the headquarters of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch in Farnborough.
A rebel militiaman told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he had been ordered to the crash site minutes after the MH17 plane had gone down.
He said his commanders had told him: “We’ve just shot down one of the Kiev fascists’ planes.”
The militiaman said: “We thought we were looking for baled-out Ukrainian pilots but instead we found dead civilians.”
Earlier in Washington, officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence presented evidence they had gathered on the involvement of the rebels.
“It’s a solid case that it’s an SA-11 [missile] that was fired from eastern Ukraine under conditions the Russians helped create,” said the officials, who requested that their names not be reported.
They said the “most plausible explanation” for the shooting down of the plane was that rebels mistook it for another aircraft.
The Netherlands has a reputation for being “flat” geographically speaking, but a journalist called for the Dutch to build their own mountain.
The highest point on Dutch soil is technically a volcano on the island of Sava in what’s called the Caribbean Netherlands. But Thijs Zonneveld, a former professional cyclist turned sports writer, wants to change that and he called for the Dutch to build their own mountain.
Thijs Zonneveld, who remembers making drawings of mountains in his geography book at school, has recently used his newspaper column to argue that the Dutch need their own mile-high peak.
“The Dutch people go to the mountains in the summertime and wintertime by the millions,” Zonneveld wrote.
“They go for biking, for hiking, for having a picnic with a view, and for skiing in wintertime.”
“So, what we need is our own mountain in Holland, so that people don’t have to leave the country to enjoy these things.”
The journalist said that, at first, he meant it as a joke.
“But after I wrote the column, I got so much response from people who had been thinking seriously about this that I started to take it seriously myself.”
This week, Thijs Zonneveld organized a brainstorming session in the city of Utrecht. Dozens of engineers, architects and urban planners gathered to talk about how exactly would go about building a mile-high mountain.
The brainstorming session kicked off with all participants doing a rousing cheer of “Die Berg Komt Er!” (“The Mountain is Coming!”)
Pol Tummers, from Dutch engineering firm DHV, started things off by reminding people that:
“God created the Earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.”
The Dutch, after all, have been using technology and engineering to carve land out of the sea for centuries.
“We created our own country,” Tummers said.
“We created our lakes. We planted our woods. The only thing we haven’t done yet, is a mountain.”
“When we finish this, we can lay down and relax,” Tummers added.
Pol Tummers and his partner presented a plan envisioning a snow-capped mountain sitting offshore, in Dutch waters, in the North Sea. They estimated it would take more than a trillion cubic feet of sand to build it, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars.
Another architect at the brainstorming session presented an idea for a land-based Swiss-Alps style peak made with a man-made steel structure underneath.
“On that type of mountain, only one man can stand on the top,” says urban planner Martin Dubbeling.
“That’s absolutely not very Dutch. What we need is a different type of mountain, on which we can all stand on top.”
Martin Dubbling suggests that a flat-topped mountain, a mesa, might be more suited to the Dutch character.
“That way more Dutch could stand on it, as equals, at the same time.”
Martin Dubbeling also insists that the Dutch need a new big engineering project.
“Since we stopped reclaiming land from the sea, we Dutch are in some kind of identity crisis. And in the last decades we could export our ideas. But now, with this economic crisis, we really have to think of something different. ”
“A mountain definitely qualifies on that score.”
The idea of building a mountain has drawn the support of some of the Dutch sports federations.
Meanwhile, “The Mountain is NOT Coming”, an anti-mountain page, appeared on Facebook.
“I am anti-mountain!”
“First of all, it will be an eyesore, and second, that money could be better spent on education and health care,” wrote one visitor to the Facebook page.
But the organizer, Thijs Zonneveld said:
“We’re not going to change the whole country. We just want to give people more options. The whole of Holland, with the exception of a small part of the country in the south, is flat already. We won’t change anything about that.”