Bonaire residents and Greenpeace demand Netherlands step up climate change fight

Nay 11, 2023  –ORANJESTAD, THE HAGUE – Seven residents of Bonaire, together with Greenpeace, are demanding that the Netherlands enact measures to better protect the Dutch Caribbean island against the consequences of climate change. In addition, they insist that the Netherlands must reduce its contribution to global warming more quickly to become climate neutral as early as 2040 instead of in 2050. Otherwise, it is like “mopping with the tap running.” 

The requirements to the Cabinet were set out in a demand letter. Legally, that is a final warning where the next step is going to court. The government has six weeks for an initial response, after which a period of consultation may follow. 

Bonaire and the inhabitants of the island are “not protected in any way” against climate change right now, according to Faiza Oulahsen, Head of Climate and Energy at Greenpeace. “Here in the Netherlands we have standards against flood risks, dykes, a Delta Commissioner and a lot of policy,” she summarized. This does not exist on the BES islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, she said. “That is a double standard.” 

All three BES islands are special municipalities of the Netherlands. This means that residents are entitled to the same strong protection as residents of the “European Netherlands,” argued attorney Minke de Haan. 

Greenpeace referred to research by the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, which describes that the low-lying island is very vulnerable to rising sea levels. Part of Bonaire could be flooded within a few decades if the situation goes awry. Coral can also be lost, which is bad for nature, coastal protection and diving tourism. Heat stress threatens to exacerbate residents’ health problems. Cultural heritage is also at risk, De Haan added. 

The summons comes at a time when the subject is just a bit more on the radar of the national political scene in The Hague. Minister Rob Jetten (Climate and Energy) visited Bonaire at the beginning of this week. Ed Nijpels was appointed as “quartermaster” for the issue at the end of last year and was tasked with setting up the groundwork for a plan and talks. 

Yet Greenpeace and the other plaintiffs find that the Dutch State has been insufficient with regard to urgency. In a response to the summons, Jetten said it is “crystal clear” that more action must be taken quickly on the island. 

Greenpeace believes there is enough verifiable scientific evidence to ban the Netherlands from any net positive greenhouse gas emissions in 2040. The Cabinet is currently aiming for 2050. 

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