On 21 February 2023, it was announced that a climate case had been brought by twelve children before the Austrian Constitutional Court (“Verfassungsgerichtshof”). They argued that the failure to take adequate climate protection measures is endangering their future. The claimants, aged between five and sixteen years old, invoked the rights of the child with are, in Austria, constitutionally protected. The argued that inadequate domestic climate legislation (the “Klimaschutzgesetz” of 2011) violates these rights. They alleged that, because this legislation had not led to emissions reductions, it also failed to protect children from the life-threatening effects of climate change, and accordingly violated the domestic Constitution. On 7 July 2023, the Court announced that it had rejected the case as inadmissible.
The case was supported by Fridays For Future and the asssociation CLAW – Initiative für Klimarecht, as well as lawyer Michaela Krömer, who is also involved in the Mex Müllner case. It invoked the Federal Constitutional Law on Children’s Rights, which guarantees — among other things — constitutional-level rights to protection and care, child welfare and participation, a prohibition of child labor and violence and a prohibition of discrimination against children living with disabilities.
The Austrian Constitutional Court’s consideration of the case began on Monday, 12 June 2023.
On 7 July 2023, the Court announced that it had rejected the case as inadmissible, finding that the applicants had not contested all of the relevant and interconnected parts of the contested legislation, the 2011 Klimaschutzgesetz. In other words, their complaint was too narrow, and repealing only the contested parts of the law would not only fail to eliminate its alleged unconstitutionality, but would change the legislative intention behind the law and would make the Federal government responsible for all climate measures.
The Court issued two separate decisions in the case, one concerning the child applicants and one concerning the separate complaints of a lawyer concerning the impact of drastic emissions reductions on his freedom to make a living and his right to property and to respect for private life. These latter complaints, the Court found, had not been sufficiently substantiated.
The decisions in the case, as well as a summary from the Austrian Constitutional Court (all in German), can be found here.
More information on the case can be found at www.fridaysforfuture.at/klimaklage/presse.
For coverage from the Austrian media on the occasion of the hearings in June 2023, see here.
Austrian Constitutional Court, case G 123/2021-11, Decision of 27 June 2023.
Austrian Constitutional Court, case G 139/2021-11, Decision of 27 June 2023.
7 July 2023.