Greenpeace, islanders launch legal action against Dutch

Greenpeace and residents of the Caribbean island of Bonaire have filed a lawsuit against the Dutch government to preserve the island from rising sea levels, the environmental organization announced on Thursday.

Greenpeace said the seven residents of the tiny Dutch region and Greenpeace served The Hague with a formal legal warning, the final step before taking them to court.

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In September, the organization said that it was contemplating legal action after a study revealed that as much as a fifth of Bonaire might be eaten up by the sea by the end of the century.

“In the letter they demand that the government protects Bonaire against the consequences of climate change,” Greenpeace said in a statement.

“The summons letter is the last warning to the government to quickly reduce CO2 emissions and to take concrete measures to keep Bonaire safe. Now and in the future.”

Under Dutch law the delivery of the warning letter is the first legal step to bringing the state to justice for climate change, Greenpeace spokesman Bram Karst told AFP.

“I see that climate change is having an effect on Bonaire, even though our island is small and so are our emissions,” Jackie Bernabela, a 65-year-old teacher who lives on Bonaire, said in the letter.

“Residents of Bonaire should not be treated as second-rate Dutch citizens, we are entitled to be treated equally,” added Onnie Emerenciana, 60, a gardener and Bonaire resident.

Bonaire, located in the Leeward Antilles Islands, is one of the Netherlands’ former Caribbean colonies.

It joined Saba and St Eustatius as one of the Netherlands’ three so-called special municipalities in 2010.

The low-lying Netherlands is well-known for its climate adaption measures, such as a massive network of dikes to guard against the North Sea, but it is also one of Europe’s largest polluters in terms of population.

Climate action is becoming an increasingly important problem for international justice.

The Pacific island of Vanuatu pushed the United Nations General Assembly to take the historic step of requesting the International Court of Justice, the UN’s highest court, to explain countries’ responsibility to combat global warming in March.

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