Open letter to our politicians

Open letter
from Extinction Rebellion Netherlands to representatives of the Tweede Kamer

Nederlandse versie

14 May 2019

Dear representatives of the Tweede Kamer, and members of the Parliamentary Committee for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy,

It has come to our attention that the parliament is enquiring about Extinction Rebellion and its actions. We take this as a call to introduce ourselves, our actions and our demands.

Who we are

We, rebels of Extinction Rebellion Netherlands, are a decentralized, socio-political movement of citizens that is represented in more than thirty countries. We rise up non-violently for the protection of life against climate breakdown and ecological collapse. In April, our International Rebellion Weeks took place, with actions of non-violent civil disobedience in different cities throughout the Netherlands. According to incontestable scientific evidence, we are in the midst of an alarming climate crisis and a human-induced sixth major extinction event on Earth [1]. As governments around the world – including the Dutch government – are currently far from halting this crisis at the pace and urgency required to protect their citizens, we take nonviolent, direct action.

We are non-violent

We at Extinction Rebellion subscribe 100% to principles of nonviolence. Our International Rebellion Weeks have shown us that there is much agreement and sympathy with our cause among the population, and our movement grows by the day. Many of us are willing to sacrifice our personal freedom and be taken into custody by the police as result of our participation in actions of civil disobedience. We are convinced that dealing with the world-wide climate and ecological emergency at hand has priority.

Our 4 demands

All of us stand behind the following 4 core demands that we would hereby like to officially articulate towards parliament:

  1. The Government must tell the truth about how deadly our situation is, and must communicate the urgency for change: including what businesses, communities and individuals need to do. Ecological consciousness should be embedded in all education.
  2. As of now, the Government must enact legally-binding policies to year-on-year reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands to net zero by 2025. It must remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases by regenerating ecosystems. It must reverse all policies and international agreements not in alignment with that position. It must cooperate internationally to create an economy which stays well-within planetary boundaries.
  3. The Government must enact and finance a Climate Delta-plan, committing to initiatives and mobilisation of a size and scope necessary to address the ongoing climate crisis. We do not however, trust our politicians to make the bold, swift and long-term changes necessary to achieve this. Hence, we demand a Citizens’ Chamber to oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.
  4. The Government should ensure the welfare of all living beings as it acts. It must make polluters pay for environmental and social damage, and protect the livelihoods of people who are being disproportionately affected.

Given the urgency of our cause, we respectfully ask you to consider and act upon our first demand. Specifically, we ask you to declare a national climate emergency and to tell the public the truth about the climate and ecological crisis that all of us today are facing, by Tuesday, 11 June 2019.

The science

According to the United Nations appointed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), human activity has warmed the planet by about 1°C since pre-industrial times, with already visible effects on regional climates and ecosystems [2]. Any further warming will accelerate sea level rise and increase global risks of crop failures, extreme weather events, droughts and flooding. It will worsen poverty and inequality, and threaten the peace and stability of socio-political systems around the globe [3]. Additionally, crossing the Paris target thresholds would increase the risk of passing critical tipping points that could cause major shifts in the climate system [4], leading to irreversible, runaway climate change [5]. Simultaneously, ocean acidification, soil erosion and deforestation are degrading planetary ecosystems at life-threatening rates.

The recent Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report concludes that changes in land use, direct exploitation of ecosystems and climate change could drive up to a million plant and animal species towards extinction and threaten the essential resources we depend on for our livelihoods [6]. Because the threats of climate change and biodiversity loss are intertwined in their causes and impacts, they cannot be solved in isolation. It is still possible to avert an ecological collapse, but we need to act quickly and undertake fundamental changes across the board.

Governments are breaking the social contract

It is the foundation of the ‘social contract’ that citizens sacrifice part of their liberty in exchange for protection by their governments. Currently however, governments around the world are not taking the rapid, large-scale action required to protect their citizens and natural heritage. Given their current efforts, nations around the world only have a 1% chance of remaining below the Paris 1.5°C target by 2100. We are instead heading towards a range of global temperature increase between 2.0–4.9 °C [7]. This, however, sets up humanity for an ecological and humanitarian catastrophe. Governments therefore have a duty to rapidly escalate their current scale and pace of policy reform in response to climate change [8]. Yet, global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have risen steadily since the Kyoto protocol [9]. In the beginning of 2019, the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere exceeded pre-industrial levels by almost 50% [10].

The Netherlands needs to act quickly

In the Netherlands, mitigation efforts have curbed greenhouse gas emissions by 9% since the 1990s, mainly thanks to reductions in CH4 and NO2 emissions [11]. So far, however, efforts to curb CO2 emissions have been insufficient: In 2017, the Netherlands emitted more CO2 than in 1990 [12]. Far from intensifying its efforts, the government is appealing for the second time against the Urgenda ruling which would require it to reduce its emissions by 25% in 2020. Currently, the Netherlands ranks 5th in the EU for CO2 emissions per capita and doubles the world average [13]. What is yet unaccounted for in this calculation are the indirect and delocalized ecological damages that consumption of energy, food and goods in the Netherlands is causing abroad. It also leaves unmentioned the external damage that Dutch corporations cause due to extraction, production and cargo in other countries. These impacts remain out of sight and disproportionately affect global frontline communities that have contributed least to the problem.

We need to acknowledge that governments have long been failing to protect their disadvantaged communities and continue to do so. In demanding the immediate redressal of all ecological issues and the transition to a just and sustainable future, we emphasise the need for special provisions to be made for all those communities that have been historically oppressed. These communities are already facing the worst effects of climate change, and will continue to suffer the most as the ecological crisis escalates. The necessity of restorative justice, based on their terms, cannot be understated.

Today, the Dutch government is far from meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement, and it is endangering the lives of both current and future citizens around the globe. Yet, the Netherlands also has great potential in striking an ambitious new path. It has the means and transformative potential to be on the frontlines of the fight against climate and ecological breakdown. We do, therefore, believe that the Netherlands can live up to the challenge of setting up effective measures for greenhouse gas mitigation and environmental preservation. However, this will require more ambitious environmental policies, and immediate climate action on an unprecedented scale. It is a question of when, not if, the government will respond to the crisis in an appropriate manner. We hope it will do so before our common future is lost forever.

Our actions are a moral necessity and we will not stop until the government acts

We are now looking back at more than fifty years of international environmental politics that have not managed to slow down, let alone halt, the impending ecological catastrophe. At the same time, fifty years of conventional forms of protest (such as petitions or demonstrations) have not succeeded in inducing governments to effectively tackle climate change, protect its citizens from harm and secure the future of our children. Governments all around the world have been failing in their most essential duty of stewardship towards their citizens and all forms of life on earth. Thus we declare the ‘social contract’ to be broken. Because of that, and because time is running out, we as concerned citizens consider it our moral obligation to engage in continuous acts of disruptive civil disobedience until the government listens to common sense and acts upon our urgent demands.

Respectfully,
Extinction Rebellion Netherlands

[1] Ceballos, G., Ehrlich, P. R., & Dirzo, R. (2017) Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(30), E6089-E6096.

[2] Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Jacob, D., Taylor, M., Bindi, M., Brown, S., Camilloni, I., … & Guiot, K. (2018) Impacts of 1.5 oC global warming on natural and human systems. IPCC Report: Global Warming of 1.5, p. 177.

[3] Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Jacob, D., Taylor, M., Bindi, M., Brown, S., Camilloni, I., … & Guiot, K. (2018) Impacts of 1.5 oC global warming on natural and human systems. IPCC Report: Global Warming of 1.5, p. 282.

[4] Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Jacob, D., Taylor, M., Bindi, M., Brown, S., Camilloni, I., … & Guiot, K. (2018) Impacts of 1.5 oC global warming on natural and human systems. IPCC Report: Global Warming of 1.5, p. 257.

[5] Steffen, W., Rockström, J., Richardson, K., Lenton, T. M., Folke, C., Liverman, D., … & Donges, J. F. (2018) Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(33), pp. 8252-8259.

[6] Díaz,S., Settele, J., Brondízio, E., (2019) Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, pp. 1-38.

[7] Raftery, A. E., Zimmer, A., Frierson, D. M., Startz, R., & Liu, P. (2017) Less than 2 C warming by 2100 unlikely. Nature Climate Change, 7(9), p. 637.

[8] De Coninck, H., Revi, A., Babiker, M., Bertoldi, P., Buckeridge, M., Cartwright, A., … & Ley, D. (2018) Strengthening and implementing the global response, IPCC Report: Global Warming of 1.5, p. 392.

[9] Le Quéré, C., Andrew, R. M., Friedlingstein, P., Sitch, S., Pongratz, J., Manning, A. C., … Zhu, D. (2017) Global Carbon Budget 2017. Earth System Science Data Discussions, 10(1), pp. 1–79.

[10] Nasa (2019) Carbon Dioxide. URL: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

[11] Ruyssenaars et al. (2018) Greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands 1990-2017, National Inventory Report 2019, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, p. 20.

[12] Ruyssenaars et al. (2018) Greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands 1990-2017, National Inventory Report 2019, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, p. 20.

[13] Global Carbon Atlas (2019) URL: http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org/en/CO2-emissions