The Dutch state has been given two weeks to come up with a plan to drastically improve air quality in the Netherlands by judges in The Hague.
In addition, ministers must publish a list of all the places in the Netherlands where pollution limits are being broken or may be broken in the future, the court said.
The court was responding to a fast-track case brought by environmental organisation Milieudefensie which claims tens of thousands of people die prematurely in the Netherlands every year because of air pollution.
Although the government does have a plan to reduce air pollution, it is still too vague and short on concrete measures, the court said. In addition, the plan will not lead to change immediately and the deadline for meeting official pollution limits has already been moved several times,’ the court said in its ruling.
Milieudefensie spokeswoman Anne Knol said the ruling is a ‘breakthrough’ for healthy air. ‘Air pollution in the Netherlands really needs to be tackled so that fewer people are made ill or die from the consequences. It is also good news for the million lung patients in the Netherlands.’
Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague are all in the top 12 of most polluted European cities and last year air quality deteriorated further, the organisation claims.
Similar cases have also been brought before the courts in Germany and Britain. In the Netherlands in 2015, a citizens initiative known as Urgenda won its case to force the government to take more steps to reduce greenhouse gases.
Junior economic affairs minister Sharon Dijksma said in a reaction that the government will do more to tackle air pollution. ‘Clean air is crucial,’ she told news agency ANP. ‘That is why we are going to speed up our approach and make our plans more concrete, together with the regions where there are problems.’