Categories
Domestic court Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights Italy Paris Agreement Right to a healthy environment

Giudizio Universale (The Last Judgment) (A Sud v. Italy)

Summary:
In June 2021, the Giudizio Universale (The Last Judgment) campaign, coordinated by the environmental justice NGO A Sud, filed a suit before domestic courts in Italy. The suit, which involves more than 200 plaintiffs, alleges that the Italian government has violated fundamental rights due to its failure to take appropriate measures to meet the emissions reductions targets in the Paris Climate Agreement. violating fundamental rights, including the right to a stable and safe climate. The plaintiffs seek an order that the Italian government must cut emissions by 92% by 2030 as compared to 1990 levels. The applicants argue that although some emissions reductions have been achieved since 1990, these amount to only about a 29% reduction as compared to 1990 levels. The applicants submit that this level of reduction is incompatible with the ‘fair share’ of emissions reductions that Italy must implement to meet the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement.

Among other rights, the applicants invoke the human right to a stable and safe climate. In their submissions, they base this right on Article 6 of the Treaty of the European Union as well as Articles 2 (right to life) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Although there is no explicit right to a healthy environment in the ECHR, the European Court of Human Rights has an extensive environmental jurisprudence, having decided more than 300 cases with an environmental connection.

Date filed:
5 June 2021

Jurisdiction:
Civil Court of Rome

Further reading:
A summary of the legal action is available here (in Italian).

An English-language summary has been provided here.

Categories
2021 Belgium Domestic court Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights Private and family life Right to life

Belgian ‘Klimaatzaak’

Summary:

On 17 June 2021, a Brussels court of first instance issued its judgment in the Urgenda-inspired Belgian “Klimaatzaak” (Dutch for “climate case”).

The applicants in this case alleged, among other things, that the four Belgian governments (i.e. the three regional governments and the federal state) had violated human rights law, and were obligated to reduce Belgium’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

The case was delayed for almost three years because of proceedings contesting the language of the case, which was adjudicated in French.

On 17 June 2021, a court of first instance found that Belgian climate policy was negligent and violated the duty of care under human rights law. At stake were, among other things, violations of Articles 2 and 8 ECHR, in claims inspired by the Dutch Urgenda case. However, the court of first instance also held that, in light of the principle of separation of powers, it could not set greenhouse gas reduction targets for the Belgian governments.

Key points of the first-instance judgment:

The Brussels court of first instance not only declared the complaint of the applicant association, VZW Klimaatzaak, admissible, but also that of the 58,000 co-plaintiffs. Belgian law does not allow for an actio popularis, but the first-instance court recognized that all of the applicants faced a risk of material, physical or moral damage. In doing so, it referred to the risks to human and animal health and to the territorial integrity of the Belgian state, and especially of the Flemish region, which was particularly at risk of harms caused by sea level rises. The best available science, as reflected in existing diplomatic consensus, did not leave room for doubt about the existence of a real risk from dangerous climate change. This meant a serious risk that current and future generations would see their daily lives profoundly impacted (“profondément perturbées”). The fact that other Belgian citizens could bring a similar claim did not change this.

The judgment also states that the federal state and the three regions are jointly and individually responsible for the risk of harm at stake, despite the complex structure of the Belgian state.

Lastly, the judgment states that the four governments’ inadequate climate policy violates articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which enshrine the right to life and the right to respect for private and family life, respectively).

However, the court did not order the injunction claimed by the applicants for concrete reduction targets. The applicants had requested an injunction to the effect that the Belgian state should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2025 and by 55% by 2030.

The applicants have indicated that they will appeal the judgment and take a case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, making this the potential fifth climate application to the ECtHR. The applicants have indicated that the reason for the latter step is that delays in the domestic judicial system mean that the case might only be concluded in 9.5 years. Citing the urgency of emissions reductions, they have indicated that they will claim that there is no effective remedy available on the domestic level.

Suggested citation:
Francophone first instance court of Brussels, 4th chamber, Klimaatzaak ASBL v. Belgium, no. 2015/4585/A, Judgment of 17 June 2021, available at https://prismic-io.s3.amazonaws.com/affaireclimat/18f9910f-cd55-4c3b-bc9b-9e0e393681a8_167-4-2021.pdf

Full text:

For background information on the case, see here.

For a summary (in Dutch) by Klimaatzaak, see here.

For the full judgment (in French), see here.

Further reading:

For more on this case, see the blog post by Matthias Petel and Antoine De Spiegeleir in the Sabin Center’s Climate Law Blog, available here.

Categories
Children and young people Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights Norway

‘The People v. Arctic Oil’ (X. v. Norway)

Summary:
The fourth climate change case at the European Court of Human Rights has been announced, and it has been brought by six young Norwegian climate activists aged between 20 and 27, along with two organisations who allege that their members’ lives, health and well-being are being directly affected by the escalating climate crisis. The six individual applicants also allege that, as young people, they are being disproportionately affected by the climate crisis.

The application concerns the Norwegian State’s decision to license continuing exploration for oil and gas in new areas of the Arctic (Barents Sea), and its intention to bring new fossil fuels to market after 2035. The applicants argue that the best available science shows that the emissions from known reserves of fossil fuels will already exceed the carbon budget that remains given the 1.5°C temperature target set in the Paris Agreement.

Citing the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis, the applicants allege that the respondent State has failed to take the precautionary measures of prevention and protection required under Articles 2 and 8 ECHR (the right to life and the right to respect for private and family life, respectively). They furthermore allege a breach of the prohibition of discrimination in Article 14 ECHR. during the domestic court proceedings, as well as a violation of the right of access to an effective domestic remedy under Article 13 ECHR.

The applicants have sought the application of the Court’s priority policy under Rule 41 of the Rules of Court. In the two already-communicated climate cases, Duarte Agostinho v. 33 Member States and Klimaseniorinnen v. Switzerland, the Court has granted the applicants’ request for priority. A third case has not yet been communicated, making this the fourth climate case pending before the ECtHR.

Domestic proceedings and the reasoning of the Norwegian Supreme Court:
This case is a follow-up from domestic proceedings that were concluded by a judgment in favour of the State that was issued by the Norwegian Supreme Court on 22 December 2020.

In 2016, the two applicant organisations brought a case against the State’s decision to grant 10 licences in the Barents Sea. On 22 December 2020, the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled that this decision did not violate the right to a healthy environment under Article 112 of the Norwegian Constitution. It also found no violation of the ECHR. While it did find that climate impacts should have been assessed, it held that this could be remedied at the development stage (after the licences in question had been issued).

The Norwegian Supreme Court considered that there had been no violation of the ECHR in this case because that Convention only applies to “direct and immediate” environmental harms. Although the Supreme Court considered Articles 2 and 8 ECHR and referred to the pending Duarte Agostinho case in its oral ruling, it considered that the case-law as it stood at the time of decision had not been contravened.

Regarding Article 2 ECHR, the Supreme Court held that this only applies to real and immediate risks of loss of life. The question before the Supreme Court, it argued, was the issue of a sufficient link between the domestic administrative decisions and the risk of a loss of life. It considered that it was not clear whether the decisions would in fact lead to emissions, and the threat concerned was in the future.

Regarding Article 8 ECHR, the Court held that this did not cover every harm to the environment, that an impact had to be “direct and immediate” also here, and that efforts by the Committee of Ministers to add a separate right to a healthy environment to the ECHR had failed.

The Supreme Court also considered that the Dutch Urgenda judgment was not comparable to the case at hand, because that case concerned already-established climate targets, and not the possible invalidity of an administrative decision.

Submissions before the Court in greater detail:
The applicants argue that there is a real and serious risk to their lives and well-being, and to their ability to enjoy their private life, family life and home. They submit that the Norwegian State has failed to adopt the necessary and appropriate measures to address this risk, and that it has failed to describe and assess the total climate effects, including exported emissions, of continued and expanded extraction of oil and gas from the Arctic, thereby also violating the applicants’ rights.

The six individual applicants submit that they have experienced climate anxiety, emotional distress and great worry about the
current and imminent risks of serious climate harms, and the impact on their lives, life choices, and the lives of future generations. They refer to mental health literature, which increasingly draws attention to such concerns, described in the application as “pre-traumatic stress.”

The applicants note that, under current climate policies, the average temperature in Norway is expected to rise by more than 5.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. There has already been an increase in extreme rainfall events, flooding and landslides. Future impacts will include increased risk of drought and forest fire-inducing thunderstorms, changes to flood systems, sea level rise and ocean acidification.

The applicants note that there is a significant difference between planned fossil fuel extraction and Norwegian climate goals. The applicants submit that State representatives stated before the Norwegian Supreme Court that Norway will continue to produce and export petroleum as long as there are buyers. They note that Norway is the 7th largest exporter of emissions in the world, and the 3rd largest per capita, behind Qatar and Kuwait. There is no system in place to declare, assess, calculate, or reduce exported emissions from fossil fuels extraction projects, nor the exported emissions from oil and gas extraction overall.

Claims made:
On victim status, the applicants allege that the licencing of fossil fuels extraction is too complex for individuals and young people to challenge alone. The organisations in question are not only better suited to challenge such decisions, but they also claim to represent future generations.

The applicants allege Articles 2 and 8 have been violated because of the presence of a real, immediate and serious risk to these rights, of which the State had actual or putative knowledge and regarding which it failed to adopt reasonable and appropriate preventative measures. They invoke the principle of prevention, and argue that the State must adopt a legislative and administrative framework designed to provide effective deterrence against threats to the right to life. They argue that an unequal burden has been placed on younger generations, and those unborn. The applicants argue that the threats against their rights are ongoing since temperature increase cannot be reversed and the authorities must act immediately to prevent the harms in question.

Under Article 13, the applicants argue that the Norwegian courts did not assess the merits of the Convention claims in full and
based on ECtHR case law.

Under Article 14, they argue there are disproportionately prejudicial effects on a particular group, citing the factors of young age and the fact that two of the individual applicants are members of the indigenous Sami minority, whose traditions, land and resources are negatively impacted. Due to their age, the young applicants, it is submitted, had no opportunity to participate in the relevant decision-making while at the same time having to shoulder a heavier
burden concerning the long-term consequences of the acts and omissions in question.

Date filed:
15 June 2021

Suggested case citation:
ECtHR, The People v. Arctic Oil, application filed on 15 June 2021, application available at www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-norway-stateless/2021/06/0392a3c0-people-vs.-arctic-oil-–-application-to-the-ecthr-–-for-distribution_skjult-innhold.pdf.

Link to the text of the application: click here

Categories
Access to a remedy Austria Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights Fair trial Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to life Victim status Vulnerability

Unknown v. Austria

Summary:
On 25 March 2021, a yet-uncommunicated application was filed before the European Court of Human Rights concerning the impact of climate change (specifically, temperature increases) on an applicant suffering from temperature-sensitive multiple sclerosis and Uhthoff’s syndrome. The applicant alleges a violation of his rights under Article 8 ECHR by the failure by the Austrian government to set effective greenhouse gas emissions reduction measures.

The applicant alleged in particular that, at temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius, he is no longer able to walk, and that above 30 degrees Celsius, he loses complete control over his muscular movement. The applicant alleged that, by failing to sufficiently reduce its emissions to meet the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, the respondent State had not only made it impossible to meet the 1,5 degree Celsius warming target set out therein, but had even actively taken measures to exacerbate the climate crisis, including through subsidies and incentives. The applicant also alleged that the domestic State’s legal system systemically impeded him from challenging the climate policies at stake, and the government’s inaction in this regard.

He invoked the right to respect for private and family life in Article 8 ECHR, and subsidiarily the right to life in Article 2 ECHR, as well as the rights to access to a remedy and fair trial in Articles 13 and 6 ECHR.

Date:
pending

Adjudicating Body:
European Court of Human Rights

Status of case:
pending

Admissibility:
pending

Merits:
pending

Remedies:
pending

Separate opinions:
pending

Implementation measures taken:
N/A

Suggested case citation:
European Court of Human Rights, Unknown v. Austria, application filed on 25 March 2021

Keywords:
global warming, vulnerability, multiple sclerosis, European Court of Human Rights, health impacts, vulnerability, disability

Links:
Text of the applicant to the Court: https://www.michaelakroemer.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/rechtsanwaeltin-michaela-kroemer-klimaklage-petition.pdf

Categories
Elderly Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights Fair trial Keywords Margin of appreciation Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to life Switzerland Victim status

Verein Klimaseniorinnen et al. v. Switzerland

Summary:
The Climate Seniors Association demands that the federal authorities correct the course of Swiss climate policy because the current climate targets and measures are not sufficient to limit global warming to a safe level. They claim that Switzerland is not doing as much as required to prevent such disasters, and thereby failing to protect the enjoyment of their rights under Articles 2 and 8 ECHR (the rights to life and respect for private and family life, respectively). They also invoke two procedural rights under the Convention, namely the rights in Articles 6 and 13 ECHR (right to a fair trial and right to an effective remedy, respectively).

This case was only the second climate change-related case to come to Strasbourg. Like the Duarte Agostinho case, this application raises novel questions before the Court, including the issue of victim status in climate cases, the standing of (environmental) NGOs to bring cases to the Court, and the extent of the State margin of appreciation in regard to environmental protection measures related to climate change.

Third-party interventions:
There have been several third party interventions in this case.

For the full text of the joint intervention by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the Swiss Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-CH), click here.

For the full text of the third-party intervention submitted by the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI), click here.

Admissibility:

Pending

Merits:

Pending

Remedies:

Pending

Separate opinions:

Pending

Implementation measures taken:

N/A

Date of decision:

Pending

Type of Forum:

Regional

Status of case:

Communicated on 17 March 2021

Suggested case citation:

ECtHR,Verein Klimaseniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland, no. 53600/20, Communicated Case, 17 March 2021

Links:

Categories
Czechia Domestic court Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights Paris Agreement Right to a healthy environment

Klimatická žaloba ČR and others v. Czechia

Summary:
This case was brought by a group of applicants, named in the brief as the climate action NGO Klimatická žaloba ČR, a municipality, two peasants, several foresters, and a man from Prague who suffers from environmental anxiety. The case was brought on 21 April 2021, and alleges that the Government’s failures to adequately address climate change violate the rights to life, health, a healthy environment, and other rights guaranteed by the Czech constitution, the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The applicants seek a declaration that the Czech government failed to respect their rights by ensuring sufficient emissions reductions to meet the Paris Agreement’s targets. They seek an order setting the Czech carbon budget at 800 Mt CO2 from January 2021 until the end of the century.

Date filed:
21 April 2021

More information:
The complaint is available here (in Czech).

Categories
2021 Domestic court Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights France Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to life

Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. France (‘L’affaire du siècle’)

Summary:
The L’affaire du siècle (French for “affair of the century”) is a French climate justice campaign initiated by four organisations (Fondation pour la nature et l’homme, Greenpeace France, Notre affaire à tous and Oxfam France) on 17 December 2018 to bring the French State to justice for its inaction in the fight against global warming. A legal action against the State was filed with the Paris Administrative Court on 14 March 2019. On 3 February 2021, in a decision that the associations described as ‘a historic victory for the climate’, this court confirmed the existence of a causal link between environmental damage and the failure of the State to adequately combat climate change. It ordered the State to submit written observations within a two-month time frame.

Rights invoked:
Among other things, the applicant organisations relied on Articles 2 and 8 ECHR and the French Charter of the Environment, as well as the”right to a preserved climate system”. The plaintiffs argued that this right stems from national and international law such as the Stockholm Declaration, the World Charter for Nature, the Rio Declaration, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, the Climate action and renewable energy package for 2020.

Findings on the merits:
The court found that the State had not respected its greenhouse gas reductions commitments and had therefore committed a “fault”. It accordingly held that, “[i]n line with the commitments that it had made within the framework of the first carbon budget, which it failed to respect, the State must be regarded as responsible […] for part of the ecological damage observed”.

The Administrative Court of Paris thereby confirmed that there was a causal link between the environmental damage and the inaction of the French government in combating climate change. In other words, it recognized that the government’s inaction had caused ecological damage, and that the State should be held responsible for at least part of this damage. The court ordered the government to show, within 2 months, the measures it intended to take against climate change. The court reserved the rest of its judgment until after it had received these submissions.

Date of filing:
14 March 2019

Date of decision:
3 February 2021

Further information:
The full text of the judgment (in French) can be found here.

The applicant organisations are active on Twitter at @laffairedusiecl, and they have a website that can be found at https://laffairedusiecle.net/.

Suggested citation:
Paris Administrative Court, Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. France (‘L’affaire du siècle’), case nos. 1904967, 1904968, 1904972, and 1904976/4, Judgment of 3 February 2021.

Categories
Austria Belgium Bulgaria Children and young people Croatia Cyprus Czechia Denmark Emissions reductions Estonia European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Non-discrimination Norway Paris Agreement Poland Portugal Private and family life Prohibition of torture Right to life Romania Russian Federation Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland The Netherlands The United Kingdom Turkey Ukraine

Duarte Agostinho et al. v. Austria et al.

Summary:
This case was brought by a group of young people who are part of Youth for Climate Justice against 33 Council of Europe Member States. The applicant young people claim that their right to life is threatened by the effects of climate change in Portugal (e.g. forest fires). Moreover they claim that their right to privacy includes their physical and mental wellbeing, which is threatened by heatwaves that force them to spend more time indoors; and that as young people, they stand to experience the worst effects of climate change.

This is the first climate application brought before the European Court of Human Rights, and it was brought with the support of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN). The issues raised here are novel in the Strasbourg context. In addition, in communicating the case, the Court also proprio motu raised an issue under Article 3 ECHR, the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.

Admissibility:
Pending

Merits:
Pending

Remedies:
Pending

Separate opinions:
Pending

Implementation measures taken:
N/A

Date:
Pending

Type of Forum:
Regional

Status of case:
Communicated by the Court on 30 November 2020

Suggested case citation:
ECtHR, Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Other Member States, no. 39371/20, Communicated Case, 30 November 2020

Links:
https://youth4climatejustice.org/

The applicants in the case have set up two websites to share documents related to the case.

       – To see all of the third party interventions filed in the case to date (eight in total), click here.

       – To read the state observations of the 33 respondent states in this case, click here

Categories
Domestic court Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights France Paris Agreement Sea-level rise Uncategorized

Commune de Grande-Synthe v. France

Summary:
This case was brought to the French Conseil d’Etat by the municipality of Grande-Synthe, which is a low-lying coastal community, against the French government. The plaintiffs alleged that the government had taken insufficient action to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and invoked the European Convention on Human Rights, the Paris Agreement, and domestic environmental regulations.

Admissibility:
The case was declared admissible on 19 November 2020 by the Conseil d’Etat. The Government was given three months to justify its current approach to climate measures. The Conseil d’Etat indicated that the Paris Agreement, and France’s 40% reduction target by 2030 as opposed to 1990 emissions levels, would be used to interpret the State’s obligations.

Merits:
Pending

Remedies:
Pending

Separate opinions:
Pending

Implementation measures taken:
On 1 July 2021, it was announced that, in light of this case, the French Conseil d’État would require the Government to take measures before 31 March 2022 in order to reach the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions totalling 40% by the year 2030.

To achieve the reduction targets set out in the Paris Agreement, meaning a -40% reduction in emissions as compared to 1990 levels, the Government had previously adopted a reductions plan covering four time periods (2015-2018, 2019-2023, 2024-2028 and 2029-2033), each with its own reduction targets. The Conseil d’État observed in its decision of 1 July 2021 that the level of emissions measured in 2019 had respected the annual target set for the period of 2019-2023. However, the 0.9% decrease in emissions observed was too low when compared to the reduction objectives for the previous period (2015-2018), which were 1.9% per year, and compared to the objectives for the following period (2024-2028), which are 3% per year. Provisional data for 2020 might show a significant drop in emissions, but this must be to some extent due to pandemic-related restrictions and must therefore be regarded as “transitory”. It did not, by itself, guarantee that the reductions needed to achieve the 2030 target were being made. The Conseil d’État found that additional efforts were needed in the short term to achieve the target of 12% emissions reductions between 2024 and 2028.

Date:
Pending

Type of Forum:
Domestic

Status of case:
Pending

Suggested case citation:
Decision on the Admissibility: French Conseil d’Etat, Commune de Grande-Synthe and Others v. France, case no. 427301, Admissibility, 19 November 2020.

Links:
http://climatecasechart.com/climate-change-litigation/non-us-case/commune-de-grande-synthe-v-france/

Categories
2020 Domestic court Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights Ireland Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to life

Friends of the Irish Environment v. Government of Ireland

Summary:
In this case, brought before the Irish Supreme Court by the environmental activist group Friends of the Irish Environment, the Supreme Court quashed the Irish National Mitigation Plan of 2017 on the grounds that it was incompatible with the Irish Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 (the 2015 Climate Act). The Supreme Court ordered the creation of a new, Climate Act-compliant plan.

Facts:
The case was premised on evidence that Ireland was set to miss its 2030 mitigation targets by a substantial degree.

Domestic instances:
The applicant’s claim was unsuccessful before the High Court. After the High Court proceedings were concluded, the Irish Supreme Court agreed to hear the case directly, without first seizing the Court of Appeal with the case. In doing so, the Supreme Court noted the “general public and legal importance” of the case, and the fact that the seriousness of climate change, the climate science, and the emissions at stake were not contested.

Merits:
In a unanimous seven-judge judgment, delivered by Chief Justice Clarke on 31 July 2020, the Supreme Court found that the Mitigation Plan did not reach the level of detail required under the 2015 Climate Act and was ultra vires that Act.

However, the judges did not allow the applicants’ rights-based arguments. Because Friends of the Irish Environment was a corporate entity, it did not enjoy the right to life or bodily integrity under the ECHR and the Irish Constitution, and lacked standing to bring these claims. Chief Justice Clarke CJ accepted that constitutional rights could be engaged in environmental cases, but held that the Irish Constitution does not contain a right to a healthy environment.

Date of judgment:
31 July 2020

Suggested citation:
Supreme Court of Ireland, Friends of the Irish Environment v. The Government of Ireland and Others, Judgment of 31 July 2020, [2020] IESC 49.

Further reading:
Orla Kelleher, ‘The Supreme Court of Ireland’s decision in Friends of the Irish Environment v Government of Ireland (“Climate Case Ireland”)’ in EJIL Talk!, 9 September 2020.

The full text of the judgment is available here.