In June 2016, the Swedish government approved the request from state-owned energy company Vattenfall to sell its lignite assets to the German subsidiary of a Czech holding company. The deal included some of Germany’s largest coal mines, whose annual emissions total around 60 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. In September 2016, two youth environmental NGOs, PUSH Sweden and Nature and Youth Sweden (Fältbiologerna), together with 176 individuals, filed a claim against the Government of Sweden. According to the Plaintiffs, the sale of the lignite assets would enable the expanded exploitation of lignite coal assets and contribute to an increase in the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The sale would give the Czech holding company the opportunity to expand the lignite operations, which in turn would lead to increased emissions which, although the emissions were generated in Germany, would affect Swedish territory.
The Plainiffs argued that the State’s sale of coal-fired power plants violated the sustainability statement in Chapter 1, Section 2, paragraph 3 of the Swedish Constitution, as well as the right to life and the right to respect for private and family life under Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They requested the Stockholm District Court to find that the Swedish State has breached its duty of care with the sale of Vattenfall’s lignite operations, and that the sale is illegal.
The Stockholm District Court found that the Plaintiffs had not suffered any damage from the Swedish government’s decisions to permit Vattenfall to sell its lignite assets. It held that the mere risk of damage cannot be a basis for liability for damages and that the ECHR did not apply because the Plaintiffs could not prove damage correlating to the sale of Vattenfall’s lignite assets. Therefore, the Stockholm District Court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ requests.
15 September 2016
Date of Judgement:
30 June 2017
An unofficial translation of the application is available via Climate Case Chart.
Stockholm District Court, PUSH Sweden, Nature and Youth Sweden and Others v. Government of Sweden, case T 11594-16, Judgment of 30 June 2017.