Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Human dignity Paris Agreement Right to a healthy environment Right to life South Korea

Climate Crisis Emergency Action v. South Korea

It has been reported that the South Korean NGO “Climate Crisis Emergency Action” has filed a constitutional complaint concerning the country’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets.

In a draft of the application form available online (in Korean), the applicant organization noted the Korean National Assembly’s statement in support of the 1.5 degree emissions reductions target under the Paris Agreement, and the insufficiency of the domestic mitigation action to meet that target. It submits that the domestic target is “an arbitrary and irresponsible reduction target set in defiance of the standards agreed upon by the scientific community and the international community.” Noting the State’s “duty to protect the basic rights of its citizens” (in Article 10 of the South Korean Constitution), it submitted that fundamental rights are already being violated and will continue to be violated, and that higher legislative ambition is required.

Claims made (as per the version of the application made available here):
It appears that the claimants in this case invoked the right to pursue human dignity, value and happiness in Article 10 of the Constitution, along with the right to live a life worthy of humanity in Article 34, and the right to live in a healthy and pleasant environment in Article 35. They also invoked Article 36 of the Constitution concerning the protection of public health and disaster prevention. Citing scientific evidence concerning increasing natural disasters, food and water shortages, security crises and social disasters, they submitted that “the obligation to protect fundamental rights from climate change has been fulfilled only when measures corresponding to the minimum level agreed upon in the international community are taken.”

The applicants also explicitly link their case to the German Neubauer judgment concerning the impact of unambitious climate policy on the rights of future generations.

More information on this case will be added as it becomes available.

Relevant developments:

On 12 June 2023, it was announced that the National Human Rights Commission of Korea had decided to submit an opinion to South Korea’s Constitutional Court to oppose the country’s Carbon Neutrality Act (2021), which it considered to be unconstitutional and in violation of the fundamental rights of future generations because it sets out a greenhouse gas emissions reductions target that was too low. The Act sets out a 40% emissions reductions target by 2030 as compared to 2018 levels. This, the Commission found, did not respect the constitutional principle of equality, because it passed the burden of greenhouse gas emissions on to future generations.

Last updated:
23 June 2023.

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