The Geographical Journal

Separate but equal in the protection against climate change? The legal framework of climate justice for the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands


The experiences of overseas territories and how their varying degrees of self-governance influence climate (in)action are overlooked topics, even though these places are often highly impacted by climate change. Analysing the situation of the Dutch Kingdom demonstrates some of these challenges. The Kingdom consists of the European Netherlands and the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curacao, St Maarten, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba. Out of these, the Carib-bean islands are the most vulnerable to climate change, while the European Netherlands has contributed the most to it. This can be seen as climate injustice. Access to mitigation and adaptation mechanisms mentioned in international agreements could be beneficial to these Caribbean islands. However, the international climate change agreements have only entered into force for the European part of the Kingdom and not the Caribbean part due to a terri torial limitation. This has several consequences, and this paper highlights two. First, the requirement that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced does not apply to the islands, which leaves room for unsustainable activities but also overlooks their need for adaptation and compensation for loss and damage. Second, access to climate finance instruments is limited as the Dutch Carib-bean islands are seen as part of the Kingdom and therefore do not qualify for international assistance. Within the European Union, funds are available but access to these is not guaranteed, as the experience with recovery after Hurri-cane Irma demonstrates. These examples show that the issues around climate justice have been insufficiently resolved. There is a need for a long-term climate strategy within the Kingdom along with complementary funding. Until then, climate litigation could assist in enforcing a duty of care by local governments and the Kingdom to protect inhabitants by using the human rights framework. This would also create a roadmap for other territories in similar circumstances.

Data type
Scientific article
Education and outreach
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Saba bank
St. Eustatius
St. Maarten