Austria Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation European Convention on Human Rights Farming Fossil fuel extraction Imminent risk Margin of appreciation Right to life

Jasansky and Others v. Austria

On 10 November 2023, it was reported that a climate-related application had been filed with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against Austria. The case is brought on behalf of four Austrian nationals — Monika Jasansky, Peter Fliegenschnee, Friedrich Pichler, and Klara Butz –along with the NGO Global 2000.

The application contests Austrian inaction in terms of mitigation measures, and argues that the individual applicants — who have been described, respectively, as an organic farmer, a retiree, a mayor, and a climate activist — have been adversely affected by extreme weather events aggravated by climate change, namely droughts, heatwaves and mudslides. The applicants allege a violation of the State’s positive obligation to protect the right to life in Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Domestic proceedings:
The applicants contest a finding from the Austrian Constitutional Court, made in July 2023, which recognized the state’s duty to actively take effective measures to protect life and health as well as to protect private life and property, but accorded the government a wide margin of discretion and found that fundamental and human rights do not allow for claims to a specific measure (here the applicants petitioned the domestic courts to order legislators to set binding expiry dates for the permissibility of the sale of fossil fuels in 2040). Rather, the domestic court found that the legislature must be allowed to choose between the various available measures to meet the State’s protective obligations.

Suggested citation:
European Court of Human Rights, Jasansky and Others v. Austria, pending case, filed November 2023.

Adaptation Climate-induced displacement Domestic court Indigenous peoples' rights Kenya Loss & damage Non-discrimination Right to life Right to property

Legal Advice Centre T/A Kituo cha Sheria & Anor v. Attorney General and 7 Others (Iten ELC Petition No. 007 of 2022)

In 2022, a case was filed in Kenya on behalf of members of indigenous Ilchamus and Tugen communities living on the shores of Lake Baringo. Due to flooding, Lake Baringo has doubled in size since 2010. The plaintiffs assert that, as residents of the area, they are victims of climate change-related flooding, which in turn has caused displacement, deaths and harm to property. The petitioners allege violations of their constitutional human rights as well as violations of the Kenyan government’s duties under the domestic Climate Change Act. Drawing on a 2021 government report that identified climate change as the main cause of flooding in the area, the plaintiffs seek to — in the words of their lead attorney, Omondi Owino, “enforce the climate change duties of public officials”.

The petitioners’ motion for the Supreme Court of Kenya to create a three-judge Environment and Land Court (ELC) panel to hear the case was allowed. A hearing in the case — which alleges that government officials “failed, refused, or neglected” to “anticipate, prevent, or minimize” the impacts of climate change — was held on 24 October 2023 at the ELC in Iten. Government lawyers have reportedly contested the claims and the plaintiffs’ claims for damages, arguing that Kenya’s contribution to global climate change is minimal.

Suggested citation:
Environment and Land Court (ELC) of Iten, Legal Advice Centre T/A Kituo cha Sheria & Anor v. Attorney General and 7 Others, Petition No. 007 of 2022.

Adaptation Domestic court European Convention on Human Rights Imminent risk Non-discrimination Private and family life Right to housing Right to life Right to property Sea-level rise The United Kingdom Vulnerability

R (Friends of the Earth Ltd, Kevin Jordan and Doug Paulley) v. Secretary of State for Environment, Road & Rural Affairs

On 17 October 2023, the reportedly first-ever domestic adaptation case was brought against the United Kingdom before its High Court of Justice. The plaintiffs in this pending case include Kevin Jordan, a homeowner from Norfolk (UK), who alleges that his home is acutely threatened by coastal erosion, with the road leading up to it having already collapsed into the sea. Jordan has brought his case together with the NGO Friends of the Earth and disability rights activist Doug Paulley, a care home resident who alleges that his health conditions are being exacerbated by climate-aggravated heatwaves. Together, the plaintiffs challenge the UK’s National Adaptation Programme (NAP). Domestic law requires the production of new NAP every five years, and the most recent version — NAP3 — was published in July 2023. The claimants argue that NAP3 is deficient for the following reasons:

  1. Failure to set sufficiently specific objectives;
  2. Failure to conduct and publish information on the assessment of the risks involved in implementing NAP3;
  3. Failure to consider the unequal impacts of NAP3 on protected groups (on the grounds of age, race and disability); and
  4. Violation of Articles 2, 8, 14 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the rights to life, respect for private and family life, non-discrimination and property, respectively), as enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998.

In regards to the alleged human rights violations, the plaintiffs invoke:

a. The well-established but urgent need for long-term policy and protected funding to enable care-homes (and similar healthcare settings) to adapt to excessive heat. This remains absent in NAP3 despite the increasing frequency and severity of annual heatwaves.
b. There being no new policy to manage overheating risks in existing health and social care buildings, such that they are properly refurbished as soon as reasonably practicable.
c. A lack of a commitment to provide adequate resources to support communities at imminent risk of being lost to erosion and flooding, including as to the established mental health and emotional wellbeing impacts for those affected.
d. Gaps, inconsistency and uncertainty in the potential allocation of funding provided for a range of areas, in particular for those communities that must (or are likely to have to) relocate and have their homes demolished.
e. There being no insurance or compensation schemes available for the worst affected by coastal erosion and who lose their homes.
f. No evidence of their being an express consideration, or reasoned analysis, of what a fair balance to strike would be between doing more to safeguard the human rights of vulnerable people and the interests of wider society. (emphasis added)

More information:
See the press release here, and the information document obtained by ClimateCaseChart here.

For reporting on the case, see the Guardian.

Suggested citation:
High Court of Justice for England and Wales, R (Friends of the Earth Ltd, Kevin Jordan and Doug Paulley) v. Secretary of State for Environment, Road & Rural Affairs, filed on 17 October 2023.


The Portuguese Children’s Case – Shared Responsibility for the Human Rights Impacts of Climate Change

By Dr. Viktoriya Gurash, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Zurich

On 27 September 2023, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) heard the Duarte Agostinho case, brought by six young Portuguese people born between 1999 and 2012. This case involves 33 Contracting Parties of the Council of Europe as defendants. The ECtHR, with the same Grand Chamber composition, had already heard two other climate cases brought against Switzerland and France this past March (the KlimaSeniorinnen and Carême cases, respectively). After this third and final hearing on climate change issues, the Court will prepare co-ordinated leading judgments in all three cases. Ultimately, these cases hold the promise to clarify States’ human rights obligations in light of the specific characteristics of anthropogenic climate change. Relying on their right to life and respect for private and family life, established in Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the applicants urge the ECtHR to call upon governments to take measures which limit climate change. However, the Court’s opportunity to deliver climate justice depends on whether admissibility hurdles can be overcome.

Each of the climate cases currently pending before the Grand Chamber faces difficult admissibility questions, requiring the ECtHR to reconsider its case law in various structural regards. For example, the KlimaSeniorinnen case raises the significant issue of the association’s victim status, whereas the question in Carême revolves around the situation of the applicant’s residency. However, the admissibility challenges in Duarte Agostinho are the most complex of the three cases. In addition, this case required specific procedural adjustments before the ECtHR. In light of the recent hearing, this post highlights the unique features of Duarte Agostinhoand considers the call for a fresh approach to extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) as one of the main contentious points raised by this case.

Tailored procedure

The need for a transnational answer to global warming prompted the Duarte Agostinho applicants to bring a case against 33 Members States of the Council of Europe. In response to a question posed by Judge Kucsko-Stadlmayer during the hearing, the applicants clarified their reasoning behind the selection of the 33 respondents. Specifically, these respondents are the major emitters within the Council of Europe for whom sufficient evidentiary material is available for scientific analysis. According to the applicants, it was beyond their means to compile the evidence necessary for the assessment of all 47 States that were party to the Convention in 2020 when they submitted their application.

Considering the number of States involved in Duarte Agostinho,certain procedural arrangements were necessary. First, regarding the Court’s composition, the judge elected from the relevant Contracting Party sits as an ex officio member of the Grand Chamber, as per Article 26 §§ 4 and 5 of the ECHR. The participation of 33 judges is unconceivable, since Article 26 § 1 of the ECHR specifies that seventeen judges should sit in the Grand Chamber. In cases such as Duarte Agostinho, where the respondent Contracting Parties have a common interest, the Rules of the Court provide for the possibility of appointing a single judge elected from one of the Contracting Parties to serve as a common-interest judge who will be called upon to sit ex officio (Rule 30¹ § 1). During the hearing, the President of the Court, Siofra O’Leary, announced that according to the above Rule, Judge Tim Eicke was appointed as common-interest judge.

Furthermore, the massive scale of the Duarte Agostinho case required the coordination of the submissions and presentation of positions between 33 States before the Court. The applicants withdrew their complaint against Ukraine, likely to avoid further procedural delays caused by the extension of time limits due to the war. Not all the respondent governments presented their views during the hearing. Instead, the UK provided a joint position of the respondent States on the question of jurisdiction, while Belgium discussed the issue of the exhaustion of domestic remedies and Portugal addressed the question of victim status. In addition, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Turkey presented case-specific arguments. Furthermore, in order to assist the parties in preparation for the hearing, questions by some judges (Pastor Vilanova, Bårdsen, and Guerra Martins) were sent to them in advance. Nonetheless, the judges were able to put further questions to the parties during the oral hearing.

In addition, a significant number of organisations were granted permission to intervene in the written proceedings in Duarte Agostinho as third parties. However, only three party interveners were allowed to present during the hearing. Due to the number of third-party interventions in this case, the President of the Court reiterated the primary purpose of third-party interventions during the hearing, which is to acquaint the Court with the views of States and other persons not party to the case on the issues raised, and to provide additional information and alternative arguments which may differ from those presented by the parties.

Significance of the Duarte Agostinho case

It is clear from the hearing that Duarte Agostinho raises groundbreaking and fundamental questions. Specifically, it questions whether the Court should make an exception to its rule on the exhaustion of domestic remedies. The applicants argue that fragmented litigation across Europe is not an effective remedy, and some State-level proceedings have failed due to the lack of guidance from the ECtHR. Furthermore, this case compels the Court to clarify whether the Convention should be interpreted as granting rights to ‘future generations’.

Regarding substantive issues, Duarte Agostinho raises new questions pertaining to Articles 3 and 14 of the ECHR in the context of climate change. These questions concern the effects which climate change may have on the applicants and their families, and its consequences on the applicants due to their young age. In addition, in its communication to the governments, the Court raised a question regarding the relevance of principles from international environmental law, such as the principle of precaution and intergenerational equity, in interpreting States’ human rights obligations in the climate context. However, these substantive issues were insufficiently addressed during the hearing and were discussed only in relation to the question of victim status.

Call for a new model of extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ)

The primary hurdle in Duarte Agostinho is whether the Convention applies extraterritorially to 31 of the respondent States (with the exception of Portugal, the applicants’ home State). Judge Bošnjak’s question during the hearing suggests that the Court may consider whether the possibility of States’ substantive obligations constitutes a ‘special feature’ which can trigger ETJ. To date, the ECtHR’s extraterritorial application in view of special features has been limited to procedural positive obligations (e.g., Hanan v. Germany; Carter v. Russia).

Nonetheless, the parties agreed that the facts of this case do not fit into any of the established ETJ categories. The respondent governments have strenuously argued that the applicants’ approach will require the creation of a new ETJ model. However, this is unsupported by the text of the Convention, the principles of treaty interpretation, and by the principles developed in the Court’s case law. According to the governments, the ‘cause and effect test’, applied by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, is contrary to the Court’s established case law.

The applicants claimed that the principles of ETJ are not curved in stone. According to them, the primary issue regarding jurisdiction is whether there is a sufficient factual or legal connection between the State and an individual for activating the State’s obligations under the Convention. They concluded that the cumulative force of the jurisdictional principles derived from the Court’s case law, when applied to the special features of climate change, establishes the necessary connection between the respondents and the applicants.

Furthermore, during the hearing the applicants emphasised that their position on Article 1 of the ECHR does not necessarily imply the global extension of jurisdiction beyond the Convention’s legal space concerning climate change. They argued that numerous principles in the Court’s case law, along with special features of this case, can be used to delineate the scope of jurisdiction in the context of climate change. Of particular relevance are the vulnerability of the applicants, considering their age, location, and Portugal’s limited adaptive capacity, and the imperative of avoiding a vacuum of human rights protection within Convention’s legal space. Whether the ECtHR adopts a new ETJ model in light of the specific characteristics of climate change remains to be seen. Regardless of the outcome, the Duarte Agostinho case presents a unique opportunity for the Court to clarify its position on this fundamental question.

2023 Children and young people Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Evidence Fossil fuel extraction Human dignity Indigenous peoples' rights Right to a healthy environment Right to health Standing/admissibility United States of America

Held and Others v. Montana

In Held and Others, sixteen young plaintiffs aged between two and eighteen brought a case against the U.S. state of Montana alleging violations of the state constitution due to climate change. The youth plaintiffs in this case, which is to some extent comparable to the Juliana litigation, alleged that they are already experiencing ‘a host of adverse consequences’ from anthropogenic climate change in Montana, including increased temperatures, changing weather patterns, more acute droughts and extreme weather events, increasing wildfires and glacial melt. Fossil fuels extracted in Montana cause emissions higher than those of many countries, including Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Spain, or the United Kingdom. The plaintiffs argued that this was causing health risks, especially for children, and that the defendants, among them the state of Montana, its Governor, and various state agencies, had “act[ed] affirmatively to exacerbate the climate crisis” despite their awareness of the risks to the applicants. On 14 August 2023, Judge Kathy Seeley ruled wholly in favor of the youth plaintiffs, declaring that Montana had violated their constitutional rights and invalidating the statutory rule forbidding state authorities from considering the impacts of GHG emissions or climate change in decision-making related to fossil fuel extraction.

Claims made:
The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of fossil fuel-based provisions of Montana’s State Energy Policy Act along with a provision of the Montana Environmental Policy Act which forbids state authorities from considering the impacts of GHG emissions or climate change in their environmental reviews (the “MEPA Limitation”). They also challenged the aggregate acts that the state has taken to implement and perpetuate a fossil fuel-based energy system under these statutes.

The plaintiffs sought a declaration that their right to a clean and healthy environment includes a right a stable climate, and that existing approaches to greenhouse gas emissions in Montana violate constitutional provisions, including the right to a clean and healthy environment; the right to seek safety, health, and happiness; and the right to individual dignity and to equal protection. They also sought injunctive relief, namely an order to account for Montana’s greenhouse gas emissions and to develop and implement an emissions reductions plan.

Decision on the admissibility:
On 4 August 2021, a the Montana First Judicial District Court for Lewis and Clark County declared the case admissible in part. The prayer for injunctive relief in terms of emissions accounting, a remedial plan or policy, the appointment of expert to assist the court, and retain jurisdiction until such orders are complied with were rejected. However, the court declared the constitutional rights claims admissible, including the claim about the plaintiffs’ ‘fundamental constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment’, which — as the plaintiffs submitted — ‘includes a stable climate system that sustains human lives and liberties’.

Judge Seeley’s Ruling of 14 August 2023:
After a trial held from 12-23 June 2023, Judge Kathy Seeley of the First Judicial District Court of Montana issued a ruling in this case on 14 August 2023. Noting that “[t]he science is clear that there are catastrophic harms to the natural environment of Montana and Plaintiffs and future generations of the State due to anthropogenic climate change”, she ruled wholly in favor of the plaintiffs, declaring that the state of Montana had violated their constitutional rights to equal protection, dignity, liberty, health and safety, and public trust, all of which are predicated on their right to a clean and healthful environment (p. 92-93).

In doing so, Judge Seeley ruled that the youth plaintiffs had standing to bring the case because they had proven that they had experienced significant injuries. The court set out the different impacts on the plaintiffs at length (p. 46-64). It ultimately found that the plaintiffs “have experienced past and ongoing injuries resulting from the State’s failure to consider GHGs and climate change, including injuries to their physical and mental health, homes and property, recreational, spiritual, and aesthetic interests, tribal and cultural traditions, economic security, and happiness” (p. 86 of the ruling). The judge also ruled that while mental health injuries based on state inaction on climate change do not on their own constitute a cognizable injury, “mental health injuries stemming from the effects of climate change on Montana’s environment, feelings like loss, despair, and anxiety, are cognizable injuries” (p. 86-87). The ruling recognizes that “[e]very additional ton of GHG emissions exacerbates Plaintiffs’ injuries and risks locking in irreversible climate injuries”, and that these injuries “will grow increasingly severe and irreversible without science-based actions to address climate change” (p. 87). As children and youth, the plaintiffs are disproportionately impacted by fossil fuel pollution and climate impacts, and their injuries are “concrete, particularized, and distinguishable from the public generally” (p. 87).

On causation, and having heard and evaluated testimony from several expert witnesses, the Court extensively reviewed the scientific evidence concerning the causation and progression of anthropogenic climate change and identified the Earth’s energy imbalance as the critical metric for determining levels of global warming (p. 22). Having established that “Montana is a major emitter of GHG emissions in the world in absolute terms, in per person terms, and historically”, and noting the state government’s continuing approval of fossil fuel projects despite its already extensive production of oil, gas and coal, the Court found that there was a “fairly traceable connection” between Montana’s statutes, its GHG emissions, climate change, and the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs (p. 87). Noting that the state government had the authority to limit fossil fuel-related activities, and having regard to the fact that the MEPA Limitation causes the state to ignore climate impacts and renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels, as well as noting the economic and environmental advantages of a green energy transition for Montana, the Court noted that “current barriers to implementing renewable energy systems are not technical or economic, but social and political” (p. 83). The state of Montana, it held, “authorizes fossil fuel activities without analyzing GHGs or climate impacts, which result in GHG emissions in Montana and abroad that have caused and continue to exacerbate anthropogenic climate change” (p. 88). It noted also that these emissions were “nationally and globally significant”, and could accordingly not be considered de minimis; they “can be measured incrementally and cumulatively both in terms of immediate local effects and by mixing in the atmosphere and contributing to global climate change and an already destabilized climate system” (p. 88).

On the redressability of these impacts, the Court noted that the psychological satisfaction of the ruling itself did not constitute sufficient redress, and that declaring the relevant state statutory rules unconstitutional would provide partial redress because ongoing emissions will continue to cause harms to the plaintiffs. Noting that “[i]t is possible to affect future degradation to Montana’s environment and natural resources and injuries to these Plaintiffs”, and applying strict structiny to the state’s statutes, the Court found that the MEPA Limitation violates the right to a clean and healthful environment under the Montana Constitution, which protects children and future generations (among others) and includes the protection of the climate system. As a result, the Court tested whether the MEPA Limitation was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest, finding that neither had the state authorities shown that it served a compelling governmental interest, nor was it narrowly tailored to serve any interest.

As a result, the judge invalidated the Montana legislation that promoted fossil fuels and prohibited analysis of GHG emissions and corresponding climate impacts.

Date filed:
13 March 2020

Date of admissibility decision:
4 August 2021

Date of Ruling:
14 August 2023

More information:
The original complaint is available from the Western Environmental Law Center.

The admissibility decision is available on

Judge Seeley’s findings of fact, conclusions of law and order of 14 August 2023 are available below.

Suggested citations:
Montana First District Court for Lewis and Clark county, Held and others v. State of Montana and others, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order, 14 August 2023, Cause no. CDV-2020-307.

Adaptation Biodiversity Children and young people Deforestation Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Farming Imminent risk Indonesia Loss & damage Paris Agreement Right to a healthy environment Right to development and work Right to education Right to health Right to housing Right to life Right to subsistence/food Right to water Sea-level rise Vulnerability

Indonesian Youths and others v. Indonesia (Rasya Assegaf and 12 others v. Indonesia)

This case was brought by thirteen children, youth, and members of vulnerable groups from different parts of Indonesia, all of whom allege that they are affected by the Indonesian Government’s response to climate change. The seven youth plaintiffs, aged 7-29, together with six adults whose involvement in agrarian and farming activities renders them particularly vulnerable, invoke their constitutitional rights to life, to live in physical and spiritual prosperity in a good and healthy environment, to self-development through the fulfillment of basic needs, to food and water, to education, to work and earn a decent living, as well as the minor plaintiffs’ rights as children. They brought their complaint to Indonesia’s National Commission of Human Rights, the counrty’s independent national human rights authority, calling on it to exercise its monitoring and mediating function.

The complaint in depth:
The plaintiffs in this case emphasize that the Indonesian government has recognized the country’s extreme vulnerablility to the impacts of climate change, including to sea level rise, heat waves, storm surges, tidal flooding, shifts in the wet and dry seasons, changes to rain patterns, decreased food production, disturbances in the availability of water, the spread of pests, plant and human diseases, the sinking of small islands, and the loss of biodiversity. They also emphasize that Indonesia is already experiencing many of these serious climate change impacts, and that these will only continue to get worse.

In their submissions to the National Commission of Human Rights, the plaintiffs particularly emphasize the effects of heat stress combined with Indonesia’s humid climate; the loss of food security and livelihoods in fishing and tourism due to coral bleaching and a decrease in fish stocks; unpredictable precipitation patterns and resulting drought, water insecurity and flooding; and the impacts of heat and precipitation changes on agriculture, food and water security, and plant diseases and pests. They also emphasize the risks associated with tidal floods, high waves, saltwater intrusion and strong winds due to sea level rise, which endanger lives and will cause a loss of living space, shelter, food and water insecurity. In this regard, they note research by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank that shows that, in a high emissions scenario, and without adaptation, more than 4,2 million Indonesians will be affected by permanent tidal flooding by 2070–2100. This same research shows that 5.5-8 million Indonesian people will be affected by flooding from once-in-a-century storm surges by 2030. In addition, they note that climate change causes a higher incidence of vector-borne diseases affecting children and vulnerable populations, such as malaria, dengue fever, and cholera. Several of the plaintiffs have suffered from these diseases already. Other impacts on the health of children include air pollution, malnutrition and stunting, drowning during floods, coastal flodding, and mental health impacts such as climate anxiety. Citing a study from the American Psychological Association, they argue that experiencing extreme weather events leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, and child abuse.

The plaintiffs emphasize that they have already experienced flooding, cyclones, extreme heat, vector-borne illness, climate anxiety, and impacts on their homes and agricultural or fishing livelihoods. They submit that the Government of Indonesia has a constitutional responsibility to protect them from the human rights impacts of the climate crisis, and allege that it has failed to do so by contributing to causing and exacerbating the climate crisis. Noting that Indonesia’s domestic law and its NDC under the Paris Agreement acknowledge the link between human rights and climate change, they submit that constitutional rights should be interpreted in harmony with international human rights law. This, they argue, means recognizing that Indonesia has obligations to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as cross-sectoral obligations to ensure that all climate adaptation and mitigation actions are inclusive, fair and participatory, and to prioritize the most affected and vulnerable populations.

The plaintiffs argue that the Indonesian government should prioritize mitigation through a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants and the licensing of palm oil plantation concesssions as well as by promoting sustainable polycultural and indigenous farming practices that will reduce its net GHG emissions and ensure crop resilience.

In terms of adaptation, the plaintiffs argue that Indonesia should ensure protection especially of those living in vulnerable areas, including small islands, riparian and lowland areas, coastal areas, and dry areas. This should take place through a community-oriented, inclusive and participative process, and should serve to upgrade infrastructure, provide social protection mechanisms, prioritize nature-based adaptation through ecosystem restoration, strengthen the resilience of food systems and ensure that adaptation does not take place at the expense of any vulnerable groups or future generations. In particular, they emphasize the rehabilitation of mangrove and coral ecosystems, given their function as natural flood and erosion protection; the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, and procedural obligations to ensure consultation, information, inclusivity and equity.

The plaintiffs note Indonesia’s knowledge of climate change, its commitment to the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree warming target under its Updated NDC, and its awareness of the risk of huge economic losses due to the dangers of climate change. Against this background, they argue that Indonesia has violated its human rights obligations by failing to mobilize the maximum available resources and take the highest possible level of ambition in mitigating its emissions, noting that it is one of the world’s largest emitters of land use change and energy emissions and the world’s seven largest emitter of cumulative emissions. They argue that, to align with the 1.5°C degree warming scenarios, Indonesia needs to limit its emissions from 660 to 687 million metric tons of CO2e by 2030. It is failing to do so, instead expanding its coal-fired power plant network and supporting ongoing deforestation.

The plaintiffs argue that these measures, i.e. the government’s failure to take adaptive steps, and its contribution to and exacerbation of climate change, have violated their right to a healthy environment, their right to health, their right to life and their rights to food and water. As concerns their right to development, the plaintiffs argue that “[t]he impact of climate change on the right to development has a ripple effect across all human rights”. They also link the government’s policies to impacts on their enjoyment on the right to education and the right to work and earn a decent living. Lastly, for the child applicants, they note risks for the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, access to education, proper food, proper housing, safe drinking water, and sanitation.

Measures requested:
The Plaintiffs request that the Commission:

  • State that climate change is a human rights crisis, and that each additional degree of heating will cause further impacts;
  • State that climate change has disrupted their rights to a healthy environment, life, health, and development through the fulfillment of basic needs, food, water, education, and employment; that the child plaintiffs are particularly vulnerable in this regard; and that the Government has violated its obligation to respect, protect, uphold and fulfill the plaintiffs’ human rights;
  • State that “the government has contributed to and continues to perpetuate the climate crisis by knowingly acting in disregard of the available scientific evidence on the necessary measures to mitigate climate change”, and that its actions — such as its approval of new coal-fired power plants, approval of large-scale deforestation and land clearing, and failure to implement basic adaptation measures — are an expression of this;
  • Recommmend immediate review of law and policy to reduce GHG emissions, mobilize resources, and minimize losses;
  • Recommend steps to reduce Indonesia’s national GHG emissions, including moratoria on new coal plants and on concessions for oil palm plantations, industrial forest plantations, and the clearing of peatlands; the promotion of sustainable and polycultural agricultural practices; and adaptation measures; and
  • Recommend an inclusive, fair, open, and effective approach to public participation in climate-related decision-making.

Developments in the case:
The case is still pending. However, in receiving the case during a hearing held on 14 July 2022, two of the Commissioners heard directly from the plaintiffs and welcomed the petition. Commissioner Choirul Anam stated that “climate change is an enormous problem, which influences various human rights. It is our job to push for better government actions in responding to climate change.”

Further information:
The text of the complaint in this case is available (in Bahasa and English) from

For a comment, see Margaretha Quina and Mae Manupipatpong, ‘Indonesian Human Rights Commission’s First Human Rights Complaint on the Impacts of Climate Change’, Climate Law Blog, 22 November 2022, available here.

Suggested citation:
National Commission of Human Rights of Indonesia, Indonesian Youths and others v. Indonesia, complaint filed on 14 July 2022.

Last updated:
8 August 2023.

2023 Biodiversity Children and young people Deforestation Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Farming Indigenous peoples' rights Loss & damage Right to a healthy environment Sea-level rise Separation of powers Standing/admissibility United States of America Victim status Vulnerability

Navahine F., a Minor v. Dept. of Transportation of Hawai’i et al.

In Junuary 2022, fourteen young people filed suit against the Department of Transportation of the US state of Hawai’i, its Director, the state’s Governor, and the State itself. In Hawai‘i Circuit Court, they alleged that the state’s transportation system violated the Hawai‘ian Constitution’s public trust doctrine and the right to a clean and healthful environment that it enshrines. The plaintiffs argued that the state and its authorities had “engaged in an ongoing pattern and practice of promoting, funding, and implementing transportation projects that lock in and escalate the use of fossil fuels, rather than projects that mitigate and reduce emissions”. Arguing that Hawai’i was the most carbon-dependent state in the nation, they sought declaratory and injunctive relief. They made a variety of arguments about the destruction of the Hawai’ian environment, coral reefs, native species of plants and marine life, and beaches; about their health and well-being, including about climate anxiety and about existing health conditions that are aggravated by the effects of climate change; about flooding and its impact on their ability to go to school; about water and food security, including impacts on traditional food sources, traditional and indigenous ways of life and culture; about wildfires; and about climate anxiety.

Claims made:
The plaintiffs note that Article XI, section 1 of the Hawai‘i Constitution requires Defendants “[f]or the benefit of present and future generations,” to “conserve and protect Hawai‘i’s natural beauty and all natural resources.” Article XI, section 1 further declares that “[a]ll public natural resources are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the people.” The Constitution also explicitly recognizes the right to a clean and healthful environment. Noting the special vulnerability of Hawai’i to climate-related ecological damage, including from sea-level rise, and the disproportionate harm to children and youth, including the lifetime exposure disparities concerning extreme events such as heat waves, wildfires, crop failures, droughts, and floods, they allege that the state of Hawai’i, through its Department of Transportation, has “systematically failed to exercise its statutory and constitutional authority and duty to implement Hawai‘i’s climate change mitigation goals and to plan for and ensure construction and operation of a multimodal, electrified transportation system that reduces vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions, and helps to eliminate Hawai‘i’s dependence on imported fossil fuels”.

Ruling on Motion to Dismiss:
On 6 April 2023, the First Circuit Court rejected the respondent’s motion to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. The state had argued that the public trust doctrine did not apply to the climate, “because climate is not air, water, land, minerals, energy resource or some other “localized” natural resource.” It had also argued that any efforts by the state would not have an impact on climate change given the scale of the problem.

The Court held in this regard that, in any event, the state as trustee had an obligation to keep its assets, i.e. its trust property, from falling into disrepair. It thereby rejected the argument that climate change was “too big a problem” and the idea that the state had no obligation to reasonably monitor and maintain its natural resources by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and planning alternatives to fossil-fuel heavy means of transportation. The Court also recognized that “the alleged harms are not hypothetical or only in the future. They are current, ongoing, and getting worse.”

On the argument that the applicants did not have a sufficient interest in the case, the Court held that the plaintiffs “stand to inherit a world with severe climate change and the resulting damage to our natural resources. This includes rising temperatures, sea level rise, coastal erosion, flooding, ocean warming and acidification with severe impacts on marine life, and more frequent and extreme droughts and storms. Destruction of the environment is a concrete interests (sic).”

Finding that arguments based on the political question doctrine were premature in this case, and citing case-law finding that this doctrine does not bar claim based on public trust duties, the Court denied the motion to dismiss the case.

Trial date set:
It was announced in August 2023 that trial dates for this case had been scheduled for 24 June-12 July 2024 at the Environmental Court of the First Circuit for Hawai’i. This would make this only the second-ever constitutional rights climate case to go to trial in the United States, after the Held and others v. Montana case. The case will be heard by First Circuit Judge John Tonaki.

Further information:
For the ruling of the First Circuit Court, see here.

Suggested citation:
First Circuit Court of the State of Hawai’i, Navahine F., a Minor v. Dept. of Transportation et al., Civ. No. 1CCV-22-0000631, ruling of 6 April 2023.

Last updated:
16 August 2023

Children and young people Climate activists and human rights defenders Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation European Convention on Human Rights Indigenous peoples rights Indigenous peoples' rights Non-discrimination Paris Agreement Private and family life Prohibition of torture Right to a healthy environment Right to culture Right to health Right to housing Right to life Right to property Russian Federation

Ecodefense and Others v. Russia

In 2022, the NGOs Ecodefense and Moscow Helsinki Group, together with a group of individual plaintiffs representing Fridays for Future and the Sami and Itelmen indigenous people, brought an administrative action before the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation seeking to declare the Russian Federation’s climate legislation invalid. They argue that the current measures are not in line with the temperature targets under the Paris Agreement, noting that Russia is currently the fourth biggest global carbon emitter. They submit that Russia is accordingly in violation of its own constitution, as well as of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Russia ceased to be a party to the ECHR on 16 September 2022.

Key arguments:
The plaintiffs invoke a number of human and constitutional rights, arguing that their right to life, to health care, to a healthy environment (which is recognized by the Russian Constitution), to the protection of land and other natural resources as the basis of the life and activities of indigenous peoples, and to the protection of young people and future generations (based on the principle of equality). They also invoke the prohibition of torture and the right to home, private life and property as well as the prohibition of discrimination and the right to an adequate standard of living.

On this basis, the plaintiffs argue that the existing Russian climate policy measures are not only incompatible with domestic law, but that they also violate Russia’s international legal obligations under the UNFCCC, the Paris Agreement, the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the ECHR. The plaintiffs also contest the emphasis on carbon absorption (and not GHG emissions reductions) in the current Russian strategy, which they argue does not suffice to do Russia’s “fair share” to keep global warming below the Paris Agreement’s targets of 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius.


Further information:
A summary of the plaintiff’s submissions in this case is available via

Suggested citation:
Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, Ecodefense and Others v. Russia, pending case, submitted on 11 September 2022.

Last updated:
4 August 2023

2023 Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Margin of appreciation Paris Agreement Separation of powers Spain Standing/admissibility Victim status

Greenpeace Spain et al. v. Spain

In 2020, three environmental NGOs (Greenpeace, Ecologistas en Acción and Oxfam Intermón) challenged the level of ambition of the Spanish government’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets in what has been described as the first-ever Spanish climate case. At the material time, the Spanish ambition was to reduce emissions by 23% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels); the three NGOs argued that this target should have been more ambitious, at 55%. In the absence of any response to the challenge by the Government, in September 2020, the three NGOs filed an administrative appeal to the Spanish Supreme Court. In 2023, the Supreme Court dismissed the case, with the plaintiffs announcing their intention to seize the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Claims made:
These proceedings challenged delays in the adoption of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (‘Plan Nacional Integrado de Energía y Clima’ or PNIEC), as required under European Union law (by 31 December 2019, see EU Regulation 2018/1999), as well as its low level of amibition. The Spanish government missed this deadline, only transmitting its PNIEC to the European Commission on 31 March 2020. In their pleadings, the applicants argued that the Spanish state must take more ambitious measures in order to guarantee respect for human and environmental rights for present and future generations.

On 24 July 2023, the case was decided by the Spanish Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal in full. The Court noted the formal nature of the complaints about delays in the adoption of the plan, and emphasized the short time frame for the adoption of the PNIEC imposed by EU law, as well as the complexity of decision-making within multi-level governance frameworks, which meant that the plan could not be considered void as a whole.

As concerns the level of amibition of the plan, the Supreme Court noted the need to decide this case under Spanish law, and not the case-law from other jurisdictions that had been cited by the applicants; it also noted the need to respect the concrete legal obligations that Spain had assumed under the Paris Agreement, as well as the need to balance climate action with the interests of a sustainable economy.

The Court held that the State had a wide margin of discretion in this context, and that the case was asking it to exceed its role by not only declareing an acceptable emissions target, but accordingly by imposing far-reaching changes to Spain’s economic policy. It noted that while the targets under the Paris Agreement were minimum targets (“at least”), as were those under EU law, the Spanish legislator had chosen to adhere to these minima, and not to exceed them.

On the fundamental rights claim, the Court referred to EU law on locus standi, especially the Armando Carvalho case. It emphasized the need to prevent voiding the criterion of direct and individual concern. Accordingly, it found that the alleged infringement of human rights by the PNIEC was not sufficient in itself to render these claims admissible. The decision to adhere to the minima set out under EU law could not be considered arbitrary, but instead constituted a legitimate exercise of the Spanish government’s constitutional powers.

Further proceedings:
After the ruling was issued, Lorena Ruiz-Huerta, counsel for the plaintiff organizations, announced their intention to take this case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in order to “force the State to protect the human rights that are seriously threatened by climate change”.

Suggested citation:
Spanish Supreme Court, Greenpeace Spain et al. v. Spain, no. 1079/2023, 24 July 2023, ECLI:ES:TS:2023:3556.

Further information:
For the Supreme Court’s ruling (in Spanish), see here.

The applicants’ pleadings (in Spanish) are available via

Last updated:
4 August 2023

2023 Business responsibility Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Imminent risk Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to a healthy environment Right to health Right to life Standing/admissibility Victim status

Citizens’ Committee on the Kobe Coal-Fired Power Plant v. Kobe Steel Ltd., et al.

On 20 March 2023, a first-instance court in Japan heard a civil case concerning the construction and operation of new coal-fired power plants brought by the citizens of Kobe. Two weeks previously, on 9 March 2023, the Japanese Supreme Court refused to hear its first-ever administrative climate case concerning the same set of facts, giving no substantive reasons for doing so. In the civil case, which was filed in 2018, 40 citizens of Kobe brought suit against three corporations involved in the construction and operation of the plants. They argued that these plants would impact themtheir personal rights and right to a peaceful life both through air pollution and through their contribution to the climate change.

As Grace Nishikawa and Masako Ichihara have explained on the Sabin Center’s Climate Law Blog, ‘personal rights’ are established through case-law and frequently enter into play in environmental cases. They protect personal well-being, including the rights to life, bodily integrity, health, and a peaceful life (the last of which the authors compare to the right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights). The plaintiffs in this case invoked these personal rights, arguing that the coal plants would aggravate climate change, leading to extreme heat and rainfall events that would directly affect them. In their submissions, they made arguments based on international and comparative law, mentioning carbon budgets, the Paris Agreement, the Dutch Urgenda case, and the Glasgow Climate Pact.

In its first-instance judgment, the Kobe District Court accepted that greenhouse emissions, including those from the plant, contribute to climate change and can violate personal rights. However, it found the risk of harm to the individual plaintiffs to be too uncertain, and rejected their claim, noting the difficulty of causally attributing responsibility for damage related to climate change.

Concerning the alleged violation of the right to a peaceful life, which the plaintiffs argued contains a right to a healthy and peaceful life, the Court likewise rejected this claim, for the same reasons, finding that fears about climate change were not concrete enough to constitute human rights violation. The Court also noted that there was no legally recognized right stable climate in Japan.

Concerning the additional air pollution complaint, the Court found that this was not serious enough to constitute a concrete danger to the plaintiffs’ rights. It also did not engage with the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction halting the operation of the coal plants.

Climate Case Chart reports that an appeal in this case was filed on 4 January 2023.

Further reading:
The above draws on the following two key sources:

The original case documents (in Japanese) are available via Climate Case Chart.

Suggested citation:
Kobe District Court, Citizens’ Committee on the Kobe Coal-Fired Power Plant v. Kobe Steel Ltd., et al., Judgment of 20 March 2023.

Last updated:
20 July 2023