Episode 102 – Bonaire’s Climate Litigation – The Eco Files

Stef Janet and Kjelld top row and Margherita and Eefje below

Today, we add a new piece to our Eco Files series by looking at climate litigation against governments. Since 1984, there have been over 2,340 such legal cases, according to the Grantham Research Institute and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. More than two-thirds of those lawsuits have been filed since 2015.

That year saw both The Paris Agreement on climate, and an unprecedented move by the Dutch environmental advocacy non-profit Urgenda, which sued the Netherlands for not doing enough to protect its citizens from climate change and won the case in 2019.

On January 11 2024, the Dutch government was once again brought before the Hague district court. This time by eight residents of the Caribbean island of Bonaire, working together with Greenpeace, who accuse the Netherlands of violating their human rights by not taking sufficient measures to protect the low-lying island from the effects of the climate crisis.

A study by the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam commissioned by Greenpeace has shown that the effects of climate change are already affecting daily life on Bonaire. The Netherlands has a long colonial legacy with Bonaire – see this video for the weird and wonderful facts about the Netherlands’ geography including the Caribbean – and since 2010 the island has been a special municipality of the Dutch kingdom.

We sit down with Kjelld Masoud Kroon, activist and one of the plaintiffs in the case, and Eefje de Kroon, climate justice expert at Greenpeace Netherlands working on the case, to discuss how the lawsuit was built, what the main demands are and where we are at now.

We ask Kjelld about the effects of climate change on the life of the island and what it feels like to live in the Netherlands and see the government address climate crises in its various regions differently.

In the wake of the historic ECHR climate change decision in April and right before the ITLOS advisory opinion on climate change scheduled for May 21, we also ask Eefje how these decisions can impact the Bonaire case and how this trial can move the jurisprudence forward.

Eefje says that the current case, builds upon the successful 2015 Urgenda Climate Case against the Dutch Government, arguing for the right to culture and the prohibition of discrimination, as well as the legal duty of the government to prevent dangerous climate change and protect human rights in the face of climate change

The case also drew inspiration from the 2022 Australian Climate Case, where the U.N. Human Rights Committee found that Australia had failed to adequately protect indigenous Torres Islanders against adverse impacts of climate change.

Instead of the traditional recommendations this week, both Kjelld and Eefje instead suggest taking action! Eefje encourages everyone to sign their name and support the climate case of Bonaire. Sign up here! And Kjelld recommends that people, if traveling to the Caribbean, become more conscious of their travelling choices by supporting local people and industries instead of foreign-owned companies.

“Street artist Judmar Emerenciana made this mural to draw attention to the consequences of climate change for Bonaire. Bonaire is in danger of being hit hard if no action is taken. One fifth of the island will be flooded. People may lose their jobs, land and important cultural heritage as a result of climate change. The slave huts depicted are a historically important and protected monument”. © Roëlton Thodé / Greenpeace