Categories
Children and young people Domestic court Emissions reductions Germany Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to a healthy environment Right to life

Luca Salis et al. v. Sachsen-Anhalt

Summary:
This constitutional complaint was brought by three young people against the German State (“Bundesland”) of Sachsen-Anhalt in the wake of the Neubauer v. Germany judgment of the German Bundesverfassungsgericht. They contest the State’s failure to chart a course towards greenhouse gas emissions reductions by adopting legislation on climate protection. The state abandoned efforts to adopt such a law after an initiative in this regard failed in 2013, relying on the Paris Agreement and the German Constitution. Like in the related case of Lemme et al. v. Bavaria, the plaintiffs here argue that the Bundesländer share responsibility for protecting their lives and civil liberties, along with those of future generations, within their respective spheres of competence. According to the plaintiffs, the lack of legislation on climate action on the state level violates the German Constitution and the reductions regime under the Paris Agreement. They also submit that they have a fundamental right to defend themselvse against future rights impacts caused by the lack of climate measures.

Rights invoked:
The applicants invoked violations of freedoms guaranteed under the domestic Constitution, especially those in Art. 2(2) of the German Constitution (right to life and physical integrity and freedom of the person), in combination with Article 20a of the Constitution (protection of the natural foundations of life and of animals). They invoked these rights in their ‘intertemporal dimension’, i.e. taking on the framing of the Neubauer case, which considered that failure to act now on climate change means excessively impacting future freedoms.

Suggested citation:
German Bundesverfassungsgericht, Luca Salis et al. v. Sachsen-Anhalt, constitutional complaint submitted on 9 September 2021.

Related proceedings:
For more on the two complaints brought in the related Lemme case, see below.

Categories
Adaptation Australia Human Rights Committee Imminent risk Indigenous peoples' rights Private and family life Right to culture Right to life Sea-level rise

Torres Straits Islanders v. Australia

Summary:
This petition against Australia was brought to the UN Human Rights Committee by a group of eight Torres Straits Islanders in 2019. In their petition, they argued that the Australian government had violated their rights, as inhabitants of low-lying islands, under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) because of its inaction in addressing climate change.

Rights at stake:
The applicants in this case invoked a series of rights in the ICCPR. This includes Article 27 (the right to culture), Article 17 (the right to be free from arbitrary interference with privacy, family and home), and Article 6 (the right to life). They consider that the Australian government must ensure both mitigation and adaptation measures in order to adequately protect their rights.

Outcome:
The case is currently pending.

Categories
Business responsibility Children and young people Domestic court Emissions reductions Extreme poverty Indigenous peoples' rights Right to a healthy environment Right to health Right to housing Right to life Right to subsistence/food Right to water Self-determination The Philippines Vulnerability

Greenpeace Southeast Asia and others v. the Carbon Majors

Summary:
This case was brought before the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by 12 organisations and 20 individuals, as well as over a thousand Filipino citizens who expressed their support for the case through a petition, against the so-called ‘carbon majors’, i.e. high-emitting multinational and state-owned producers of natural gas, crude oil, coal and cement. The applicants based their case on research indicating that these Carbon Majors are responsible for a large percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions. Citing the Philippines’ high degree of vulnerability to the effects of climate change, the applicants alleged violations of the rights to life, health, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and self-determination. They also specifically invoked the rights of vulnerable groups, peoples and communities, including women, children, people living with disabilities, those living in extreme poverty, indigenous peoples, and displaced persons. They invoked also the right to development, labor rights, and the right to ‘a balanced and healthful ecology’. This petition was brought after a number particularly destructive typhoons that affected the Philippines, including Typhoon Haiyan.

As a result of the petition, the CHR began a dialogical and consultative process, called the National Inquiry on Climate Change (NICC). This process aims to determine the impact of climate change on the human rights of the Filipino people, as well as determining whether the Carbon Majors are responsible for climate change.

Responsible instance:
The case was brought before the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights, which is an independent National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, established on 5 May 1987 by Executive Order No. 163.

Date filed:
22 September 2015

Procedural steps in the case:
On 10 December 2015, the Commission announced during the Paris Climate Change Conference that it would take cognizance of the case.

On 21 July 2016, the Commission enjoined the respondent Carbon Majors to file their comments or answers to the petition within forty-five days. Out of the 47 respondents summoned, 15 submitted a response. Thirteen amicus curiae briefs were received. The applicants filed a reply, to which seven of the carbon majors filed a rejoinder.

Beginning July and November 2017, the Commission conducted community visits and dialogues to select climate impacted areas.

On 11 December 2017, the parties held a first preliminary conference. The Commission used this opportunity to deny the respondents’ jurisdictional objections to the case. It asserted its authority to investigate the case and hold public hearings in 2018 in Manila, New York, and London.

In 2018, the Commission held six public hearings in the case.

Outcome of the NICC:
TBC

Suggested citation:
Philippines Human Rights Commission, In Re: National Inquiry on the Impact of Climate Change on the Human Rights of the Filipino People and the Responsibility therefor, if any, of the ‘Carbon Majors’, case nr. CHR-NI-2016-0001, petition filed on 22 September 2015.

Further information:
The full text of the petition is available here.

For additional resources provided by the Commission, such as transcripts of hearings and evidence submitted, click 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
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
2021 Access to a remedy Children and young people European Court of Justice Non-discrimination Private and family life Right to life Victim status

Armando Carvalho and Others v. Parliament 

Summary:
This case, also known as ‘The People’s Climate Case’, was brought by families from different Member States of the European Union. The families, who are active in the agricultural or tourism sectors, brought the case to the General Court of the European Union together with a Swedish association representing young indigenous people. They claimed that the measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that had been laid down by a legislative package from 2018 were not far-reaching enough. They demanded stricter measures: the aim should be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 – 60% by 2030, when compared to 1990 levels. In doing so, the applicants argued that an insufficient reduction in greenhouse gas emissions infringed their fundamental rights as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, namely the right to life (Article 2), the right to the integrity of the person (Article 3), the rights of the child (Article 24), the right to engage in work and to pursue a freely chosen or accepted occupation (Article 15), the freedom to conduct a business (Article 16), the right to property (Article 17) and the right to equal treatment (Articles 20 and 21).

The General Court declared the action inadmissible because the claimants had no locus standi. The claimants appealed to the Court of Justice. They claimed that the Court should set aside the order under appeal, declare the actions at first instance admissible, and refer the case back to the General Court. The Court of Justice dismissed the appeal. The Court held that the claim that an act of the EU infringes fundamental rights is not sufficient to establish admissibility of an action brought by an individual.

Deciding body:
European Court of Justice (European Union)

Date of resolution:
25 March 2021

Admissibility:
The General Court declared the action inadmissible because the claimants did not satisfy any of the locus standi criteria under its strict ‘Plaumann’ test. The Court held that the claimants were not individually concerned, because they were not the addressees of the acts at issue. The Court of Justice dismissed the appeal, and emphasized that the mere fact of alleging that a legal act of the Union infringes fundamental rights does not mean that an individual’s action is admissible; otherwise the meaning of the admissibility requirements laid down in the TFEU would be meaningless. According to the case-law of the Court of Justice, the European Union courts cannot, without exceeding their powers, deviate from the express provisions of the TFEU, this also applies to the fundamental right to effective judicial protection enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

Full text
The full text of the decision is available here.

Further reading:
On the 2019 decision on the case by the General Court, see Gerd Winter, ‘Armando Carvalho and Others v. EU: Invoking Human Rights and the Paris Agreement for Better Climate Protection Legislation’ 9(1) Transnational Environmental Law (2020), 137-164, available here.

Suggested case citation:
ECJ, Armando Carvalho and Others v. The European Parliament and the Council, no. C-565/19 P, Judgment of 25 March 2021.


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
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.