2023 Business responsibility Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Fossil fuel extraction Italy Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to health Right to life Right to property

Greenpeace Italy, ReCommon, et. al. v. ENI, Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, et. al.

Greenpeace Italy, together with ReCommon (an Italian association involved in questioning corporate and State power) and twelve Italian citizens from different regions of the country manifestly affected by climate change impacts, filed a lawsuit against ENI, a major oil & gas multinational company, and the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, which, also through Cassa Depositi e Prestiti S.p.A. (an important public financial institution), has a relevant influence on the corporation.

The applicants asked the Court to ascertain and declare that the defendants share liability for the moral and material damages they suffered to their health, life and properties due to climate change impacts, and for further endangering these same assets.
The claimants allege ENI contributed to climate change as its activities, either industrial, commercial or for transportation of energy products, caused greenhouse gas emissions far beyond the limits suggested by the scientific community, notwithstanding the temperature goals internationally recognized in the Paris Agreement, which implies emissions reductions both in the public and in the private sphere. The claimants argue that the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance and Cassa Depositi e Prestiti S.p.A. (whose majority shareholder is the same Ministry), as shareholders of the oil&gas corporation, could have influenced its strategy concerning the ecological transition away from fossil fuels, but did not leverage their relevant influence in that direction.

The legal strategy is primarily based on Article 2043 of the Italian Civil Code, dedicated to liability for non-contractual damages and interpreted, according to previous case-law, as a tool for human rights protection. The applicants claimed a violation of their rights to life, health, and respect for private and family life, as enshrined in the Italian Constitution, in the European Convention on Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and that ENI shall respect according to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises.
The claimants drew on attribution science to argue for the existence of a causal link, and recalled the reasoning of the Dutch courts in the Urgenda case, according to which even a quantitatively relatively low level of greenhouse emissions on the global scale contributes to climate change, meaning that there is a sufficient causal link between those emissions and their present and future adverse effects. In addition, the applicants rely subsidiarily on Article 2050 of the Italian Civil Code, dedicated to liability for dangerous activities, that implies a reversed burden of proof: the defendant shall prove that every measure was taken to prevent the damaging event.

Concerning remedies, the claimants did not ask the Court to quantify the damages. Recalling the case against Royal Dutch Shell (Milieudefensie), they asked the Court to order ENI to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 45% in 2030 compared to 2020 and to align to the 1.5°C temperature goal. They also asked the Court to impose a monetary sanction in case the order is not fulfilled. The applicants also asked the Court to order the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance and Cassa Depositi e Prestiti S.p.A. to adopt a policy defining climate goals to foster as relevant shareholder of the corporation.

This is not the first instance of rights-based climate litigation in Italy: you can read about the previously filed lawsuit against the Italian State here in the Database.

Date of filing:
9 May 2023

Civil Court of Rome


More information:
More information on Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon dedicated web pages.

Last updated:
15 May 2023


IPCC Synthesis Report AR6 release: a clear message of urgency and hope, increasing pressure on Governments to take equitable climate action

At the end of its 58th session, taking place in Interlaken, Switzerland, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the Synthesis Report of the Sixth Assessment Cycle on Monday, March 20, 2023.

On the dedicated official website, the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) and the longer report are now available, together with the figures representing data in the Synthesis Report (SYR) and its headline statements. The full volume is coming soon.

The SYR summarizes the findings of the reports produced during the Sixth Assessment Cycle: the contributions of the three IPCC Working Groups (respectively on the physical basis of climate change; on impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability; on climate change mitigation) and the three Special Reports (respectively on global warming of 1.5°C, on oceans and the cryosphere, and on land use). The reports are based on peer-reviewed literature published between the conclusion of the previous assessment cycle in 2014 and 2019; the process involves more than one thousand authors from all over the world. The intergovernmental panel, composed by representatives of the States that are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), approves line by line the wording of the SPM by voting in the plenary session, while it accepts the full reports. In any case, scientific data is not negotiable.

This SYR has a new structure if compared with previous ones, aimed at better-integrating knowledge from the different Working Groups and providing relevant information on near and long-term climate change and possible climate action. The sections of the SYR are dedicated to the “Current Status and Trends”, assessing both the changing climate and the implementation of adaptation and mitigation measures, to “Long-Term Climate and Development Futures”, describing a range of socio-economic futures up to 2100, and to “Near-Term Responses in a Changing Climate”, displaying opportunities for effective action up to 2040.

It is relevant that this report is destined to inform the first Global Stocktake of the implementation of the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC, which will be concluded during the 28th Conference of the Parties of the FCCC (COP 28), taking place in Dubai from November 30 until December 12, 2023. The Global Stocktake is a critical juncture as it will show whether countries and other stakeholders are making progress toward the achievement of the goals agreed upon in the Paris Agreement (“holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C”).

According to the SYR, they are not: the report states there is high confidence that “global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase, with unequal historical and ongoing contributions” and “global GHG emissions in 2030 implied by nationally determined contributions (NDCs) announced by October 2021 make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century and make it harder to limit warming below 2°C”. The report carves into stone that “human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming, with global surface temperature reaching 1.1°C above 1850–1900 in 2011–2020”, and that human-caused climate change has already led to impacts, losses, and damages to nature and people, while “every increment of global warming will intensify multiple and concurrent hazards”.

This discouraging picture is followed by a message of urgency and hope: there is high confidence that “deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would lead to a discernible slowdown in global warming within around two decades”. Nonetheless, some future changes are unavoidable, but adaptation measures are available and should be taken today before they become more constrained and less effective. According to the IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee, “mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits” (see IPCC press release).

As the report clearly states, choices and actions of this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years. A meaningful concept in the SYR is that of climate-resilient development, a model that integrates adaptation and mitigation to advance sustainable development for all. Increased International cooperation would be crucial to the implementation of such an approach, and the report confirms that, more broadly, political commitment, multilevel governance, institutional frameworks, laws, policies, and strategies are fundamental for effective climate action.

Quoting the IPCC press release on the SYR, the report “brings into sharp focus the losses and damages (…) hitting the most vulnerable people and ecosystems especially hard”. Scientific findings in the report are interpreted in the light of climate justice principles: starting from the fact that “vulnerable communities who have historically contributed the least to current climate change are disproportionately affected”, and highlighting that “prioritizing equity, climate justice, social justice, inclusion, and just transition processes can enable adaptation and ambitious mitigation actions”. In the words of the IPCC Chair mentioned above, Hoesung Lee, “we live in a diverse world in which everyone has different responsibilities and different opportunities to bring about change. Some can do a lot while others will need support to help them manage the change.”

As no new IPCC reports are scheduled to be released before 2030, this SYR seems of paramount importance for political leaders, decision-makers, the different stakeholder groups, and, not least, climate change litigation. The IPCC reports have become a source of evidence for judicial proceedings, and, vice versa, the contribution of Working Group III on mitigation released in 2022 mentioned the relevance of climate change litigation in climate governance (see a comment on this in a previous blog post). 

The effort of the SYR authors toward the accessibility of the information is noticeable. As usual, the report is written in the so-called calibrated language, the distinctive feature of the IPCC publications. Each finding is grounded in an evaluation of underlying evidence and agreement: the level of confidence is expressed by five qualifiers from very low to very high, while the likelihood of outcomes is expressed with eight qualifiers ranging from exceptionally unlikely to virtually certain. A novelty of the SYR consists of italicized annotations in the figures: simple explanations written in non-technical language, to help non-experts navigate complex content. IPCC authors also provided online tools for readers with different expertise to navigate through the panel’s findings, such as the WGI Interactive Atlas and the WGI SPM Figure Explorer.

Some of the straightforward figures of this SYR are destined to become iconic. Figure SPM.1 effectively represents how the extent to which current and future generations will experience a hotter and different world depends on choices taken now and in the near term. This figure already appeared in several posts on social networks in the days following the SYR release, while Twitter registered almost a 1,000% increase in user activity around key climate hashtags compared to the previous week. 

Written by Elena Nalato, Ph.D. Student, Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Climate Change, University School for Advanced Studies IUSS Pavia, Italy

Picture credits: Fog Opening the Dawn, Jeong Jinsil, Weather and Climate Photography & Video Contest 2021, Korea Meteorological Administration

2022 Children and young people Deciding Body Emissions reductions/mitigation European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights Germany Keywords Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to life Rights at stake State concerned Uncategorized Year

Engels, Steinmetz and Others v. Germany (1 BvR 188/22)


Following the Neubauer v. Germany case, nine teenagers and young adults brought an application to the European Court of Human Rights complaining that the new objectives of the German Climate Protection Act, as amended after the judgement of the the German Federal Constitutional Court and entered into force on 31 August 2021, are insufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the level necessary for meeting the Paris Agreement temperature goals (well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels) and that this would violate Articles 2 (right to life) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Domestic proceedings:

On 24 June 2022 it was announced that the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht or BVerfG) had refused to hear a case following up on its groundbreaking Neubauer judgment of 24 March 2021. This follow-up litigation was brought by nine young people, who sought a further strengthening of German climate protection policy with the support of the NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe. The applicants, who were aged 13 to 26 at the time of filing, were previously involved in the Neubauer case, where the BVerfG found that German climate policy posed a threat to the fundamental freedoms of future generations. In this follow-up case, they sought a judgment from the BVerfG demanding faster and more effective climate protection measures.

After the Neubauer judgment, the German government changed the German Federal Climate Change Act of 12 December 2019 (Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetz – KSG) governing national climate targets and the emissions allowed annually to provide for higher levels of mitigation action.In this case, the applicants argue that the new version of the KSG still does not guarantee that Germany will meet its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, and that it therefore does not ensure the limitation of anthropogenic climate change to the Paris Agreement’s target of 1.5 degrees. The applicants argue that the revised KSG reduces emissions by only about 6.5 percent by 2030, and draw on IPCC reports showing that the 1.5-degree target could be exceeded in around ten years’ time.The legal argumentation brought forward here was similar to that in Neubauer. The applicants argued that their fundamental freedoms are under threat, and invoked Article 20a of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz).

In an unreasoned decision, the BVerfG refused to accept this case for decision on 25 May 2022.

Application to the ECtHR:
Counsel in the case, together with the NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe, announced that they would take this case the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. A corresponding application was lodged before the Court in September 2022 and received application number 46906/22. The Court then adjourned the case pending the outcome of the three climate cases pending before its Grand Chamber (Verein Klimaseniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland (no. 53600/20), Carême v. France (no. 7189/21) and Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Others (no. 39371/20)).

More information:
The decision by the German Bundesverfassungsgericht has not yet been published. For reporting on the case, see LTO.

Part of the application made to the ECtHR has been made public by the NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe, which is supporting the applicants, here (in German). This document contains the supplementary argumentation appended to the standardized application form.

Suggested citation:
German Bundesverfassungsgericht, Judgment of the First Senate of 25 May 2022 – 1 BvR 188/22.

European Court of Human Rights, Engels v. Germany (no. 46906/22), filed in September 2022 (not yet communicated).

Last updated:

1 August 2023

2019 Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Gender / women-led Non-discrimination Pakistan Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to a healthy environment Right to life Uncategorized Vulnerability

Maria Khan et al. v. Federation of Pakistan et al.

Five people identifying themselves as women filed a writ petition, under Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan, against the Federation of Pakistan, the Ministry of Climate Change, the Ministry of Energy, the Alternative Energy Development Board, and the Central Power Purchasing Agency. The petitioners alleged a violation of their fundamental rights, recognized by Articles 4 (inalienable rights), 9 (right to life), 14 (right to privacy) and 25 (equality of citizens, notably regardless of sex) of the Constitution of Pakistan, as the respondents infringed their right to a clean and healthy environment and a climate capable of sustaining human life (as recognized in the Leghari v. Pakistan case) by failing to take climate change mitigation measures, and specifically measures to develop renewable energy resources and transition to a low-carbon economy.

The petitioners highlighted that Pakistan had ratified the Paris Agreement and submitted its INDC, committing to a reduction of 20% of its 2030 projected GHG emissions, but then failed to engage in any renewable energy power project. This was seen to represent an abdication of the respondents’ responsibilities under the Public Trust Doctrine (namely their duty to act as trustees of the natural resources of the country), and a violation of the jurisprudence of the seized Court on environmental and climate justice.

Notably, the petitioners claimed that being women and mothers, they are particularly endangered by global warming and disadvantaged in the context of the climate crisis, as documented in scientific research and international reports. Therefore, the respondents have allegedly violated Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan in that climate change disproportionately affects the rights of the petitioners and more broadly of all Pakistani women.

The remedies demanded by the petitioners are: the declaration of the violation of the above-mentioned fundamental rights and of the breach of Pakistan’s commitments under the Paris Agreement; the declaration of a positive duty on the respondents to encourage and support the development of renewable energy projects to reduce GHG emissions and mitigate climate change impacts; the order to implement and enforce the Paris Agreement to the fullest extent possible and to create and implement an integrated policy towards climate resilient development.

Date of filing:
14 February 2019, Misc. Writ 8960/19

Date of last hearing:
21 January 2021

High Court of Lahore, Pakistan


  • Petition (in English, via Sabin Center for Climate Change Law’s Global Climate Litigation Database)
  • Order (in English, via Sabin Center for Climate Change Law’s Global Climate Litigation Database)

More information:
Independently of the above-summarized judicial proceeding, on 21 July 2022, the Government of Pakistan adopted the “Climate Change Gender Action Plan of the Government and People of Pakistan” (you can read it here).

Last Updated:
18 May 2023