Categories
2022 Children and young people Deciding Body Domestic court Emissions reductions Germany Keywords Paris Agreement Right to life Rights at stake State concerned Year

Emma Johanna Kiehm et al. v. Brandenburg

Summary:
This case is one of ten separate constitutional complaints and one subsidiary popular complaint supported by the NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe against ten German States (“Bundesländer”). It was brought by three young people and three landowners against the German State of Brandenburg 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. Like in the eleven related cases, 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 themselves against future rights impacts caused by the lack of climate measures.

On 18 January 2022, the First Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court dismissed all eleven complaints for lack of adequate prospects of success. In alignment with its argumentation in Neubauer v. Germany, the First Senate recognized that the burden of CO2 emissions reductions must not be unilaterally offloaded onto future generations. However, the First Senate stated the individual legislators of the Bundesländer have not been been given an overall reduction target to comply with, even at the expense of freedom protected by fundamental rights. Thus, according to the First Senate’s decision, a violation of the obligations to protect the complainants from the dangers of climate change cannot be established. As regards to the Bundesländer, the First Senate clarified that they still have a responsibility to protect the climate, particularly by virtue of Article 20a of the German Constitution.

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.

Date of decision:

18 January 2022

Suggested citation:
German Bundesverfassungsgericht, Emma Johanna Kiehm et al. v. Brandenburg, Decision of the First Senate of 18 January 2022 – 1 BvR 1565/21 et al.

Related proceedings:
For the other related cases see:

Luca Salis et al. v. Sachsen-Anhalt

Lemme et al. v. Bayern

Alena Hochstadt et al. v. Hessen

Otis Hoffman et al. v. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Leonie Frank et al. v. Saarland

Tristan Runge et al. v. Sachsen

Jannis Krüssmann et al. Nordrhein-Westfalen (NWR)

Cosima Rade et al. v. Baden-Württemberg

Matteo Feind et al. v. Niedersachsen

Links:

For the decision in German, see here.

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
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. After the French State rejected the campaigners’ demand, 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.

On 14 October 2021, in its final decision, the court instructed the French State to take immediate and concrete measures to combat climate change and to repair the damage caused by its inaction by 31 December 2022.

Rights invoked:
Among other things, the applicant organisations relied on Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (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 on 3 February 2021 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 two-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.

In its final decision on 14 October 2021, the Administrative Court of Paris instructed the Prime Minister and the relevant ministers to take all possible measures to combat climate change and to repair the ecological damage and prevent it from getting worse. The Court specified the damage in the amount of the uncompensated share of greenhouse gas emissions under the initial carbon budget, i.e. 15 million tons of CO2 equivalents. It ordered that the recuperation of this damage must be effective no later than 31 December 2022. However, the Court did not consider it appropriate to impose a penalty on its order.

The Court noted that it is not its role to assess whether the totality of the measures taken is sufficient or not. Therefore, the specific measures to implement this recuperation may take various forms, and are left to the discretion of the French government. In its findings, the Court referred to the Commune de Grande-Synthe decision of the Conseil d’État (“Council of State”) of 1 July 2021. This decision states that the current measures are not sufficient to achieve the necessary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Date of filing:
14 March 2019

Date of decision:
14 October 2021

Links:
For the full text of the final decision of 14 October 2021 (in French), see here.

For the full text of the first decision of 3 February 2021 (in French), see here.

For an unofficial translation of the first decision of 3 February 2021 (in English), see here.  

For an unofficial translation of the State’s reply (in English), see here.

For the plaintiff’s reply to the State’s arguments (in French), see 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’), Decision of 3 February 2021, Nos. 1904967, 1904968, 1904972, and 1904976/4.

Paris Administrative Court, Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. France (‘L’affaire du siècle’), Decision of 14 October 2021, Nos. 1904967, 1904968, 1904972, and 1904976/4.

Further reading:
Christel Cournil, Antoine Le Dylio, Paul Mougeolle, ‘L’affaire du Siècle : French Climate Litigation between Continuity and Legal Innovations’, 14(1) Carbon & Climate Law Review (2020), 223-233. Available here.

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, including BP, Shell and Chevron. 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.

On 6 May 2022, the Human Rights Commission released the findings of its inquiry.

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:
On 6 May 2022, the Human Rights Commission released the findings of its inquiry. In his introductory note, Commissioner Roberto Eugenio T. Cadiz outlined the lengths taken by the Commission to engage with the “carbon majors” over this case, and noted that corporate actors, and not just States, have an obligation to respect and uphold human rights under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP). He also noted the unprecedented nature of the claim, and the Commission’s own lack of resources in dealing with it. And he rejected the argument by the “carbon majors” that the Commission did not have territorial or subject matter jurisdiction to deal with the case, noting the interrelated nature of all human rights and the impact on the people of the Philippines.

In its report, the Commission began by reviewing the best available scientific knowledge on climate change. It set out, “as established by peer-reviewed science, that climate change is real and happening on a global scale”, and that it is anthropogenic, i.e. caused by human activity. It then set out that climate change is a human rights issue, noting its adverse impacts on human rights both internationally and in the Philippines. It focused particularly on impacts concerning the right to life, the right to health, the right to food security, the right to water and sanitation, the right to livelihood, the right to adequate housing, the right to the preservation of culture, the right to self-determination and to development, and the right to equality and non-discrimination, focusing on the rights of women, children, indigenous peoples, older persons, people living in poverty, LGBTQIA+ rights. It also noted the impacts on the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and on the rights of future generations and intergenerational equity.

After considering the duties of States to protect human rights, as the primary duty-bearers of human rights law, the Commission found that these rights also include extraterritorial obligations, and that while a balance between sovereignty and human rights must be sought, “States’ duty to protect is not confined to territorial jurisdiction”. It relied on international environmental law to identify the concrete procedural and substantive obligations on States in the context of climate change, and their obligation to protect vulnerable sectors against discrimination.

The Commission considered that the refusal of governments to engage in meaningful mitigation action regarding climate change constitutes a human rights violation. It held that “[t]he pursuit of the State obligation to mitigate climate change cannot just be framed as aspirational, where the standard of fulfillment is vague and the timeline is uncertain. Concrete metrics must be set against which States may be held accountable. Failing this, States enable the human rights of their citizens to be harmed, which equates to a violation of their duty to protect human rights” (p. 87). The absence of meaningful action to address global warming, it held, suffices in this regard; these obligations of States include an obligation to regulate corporate activities, and to establish a policy environment that discourages reliance on fossil fuels.

The Commission then turned to business responsibilities, noting that “a State’s failure to perform [its duty to enact and enforce appropriate laws to ensure that corporate actors respect human rights] does not render business enterprises free from the responsibility of respecting human rights.” Referring to the UNGP framework and the UN Global Compact as well as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Corporations, it applied these standards to the context of climate change. It found that:

  • The anthropogenic contributions of the “carbon majors” to climate change is quantifiable and substantial;
  • The “carbon majors” had early awareness, notice or knowledge of their products’ adverse impacts on the environment and climate systems;
  • The “carbon majors” engaged in willful obfuscation or obstruction to prevent meaningful climate action;
  • The “carbon majors” have the corporate responsibility to undertake human rights due diligence and provide remediation, including through every entity in their value chain;
  • And the UNGPs may be relied on under the law of the Philippines.

It went on to issue a number of recommendations. Concerning States, it called for climate justice, including a pooling of resources and sharing of skills, and urged governments to:

  • Undertake to discourage dependence on fossil fuels, including by phasing out all coal power fossil fuel subsidies and other incentives;
  • To collaborate on innovative climate action and guarantee the enjoyment by all of the benefits of science and technology;
  • To cooperate towards the creation of a legally binding instrument to strengthen the implementation of the UNGPs, and provide redress to victims of corporate human rights impacts;
  • To concretize the responsibilities of corporate actors in the climate context;
  • To discourage anthropogenic contributions to climate change and compensate victims;
  • To ensure access to adaptation measures by all, as well as equality and non-discrimination in climate adaptation and mitigation measures;
  • And to ensure a just transition towards an environmentally sustainable economy;
  • As well as to fulfil climate finance commitments and devise new mechanisms for loss and damage from climate change-related events;
  • To adequately support and protect environmental defenders and climate activists;
  • To promote climate change awareness and education;
  • To include military operations and supply chains in carbon accounting;
  • And to strengthen shared efforts to conserve and restore forests and other terrestrial ecosystems.

The Commission also formulated concrete recommendations for the “carbon majors” themselves, urging them to:

  • Publicly disclose their due diligence and climate and human rights impact assessment results, and the measures taken in response thereto;
  • Desist from all activities that undermine the findings of climate science, including “climate denial propaganda” and lobbying activities;
  • Cease further exploration of new oil fields, keep fossil fuel reserves in the ground, and lead the just transition to clean energy;
  • Contribute to a green climate fund for the implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures;
  • And continually engage with experts, CSOs, and other stakeholders to assess and improve the corporate climate response through “a new chapter of cooperation towards a united front for climate action”.

Speaking directly to financial institutions and investors, the Commission noted their ability to “steer companies and industries towards a sustainable path by aligning lending and investment portfolios with targets set by science”. It considered that their role in financing sectors and projects that generate greenhouse gas emissions make them “similarly accountable for global warming”. Accordingly, they were urged to:

  • Refrain from financing fossil fuel related projects and instead direct capital towards green projects; and
  • Exert social, political and economic pressure on the fossil fuel industry to transition to clean energy by divesting financial instruments related to fossil fuels.

The Commission concluded by noting the role of UN institutions, NHRIs, and courts — reviewing examples of climate litigation such as the Urgenda or Leghari cases, noting that “even when courts do not rule in favor of the claimants, they still contribute to meaningful climate response through their elucidation of the law and the rights and obligations of the parties”. Similarly, NGOs, CSOs, the legal profession and individuals are recommended to champion human rights and continue engaging in strategic litigation to strengthen business and human rights norms, change policy, increase governments’ ambitions, and create precedents.

The Commission furthermore addressed the Philippines’ own lackluster record of climate action, making concrete recommendations to the government to, among other things, formulate a national action plan on business and human rights, declare a climate and environmental alert, and revisit its NDC under the Paris Agreement as well as implement coal moratoriums, transition to low-carbon transportation systems, implementing REDD+ measures and data building and reporting mechanisms, and create legislative change. It also recommended to the domestic judiciary to create rules of evidence for attributing climate change impacts and assessing damages, and take note of the anthropogenic nature of climate change.

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, Report of 6 May 2022.

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

The report of 6 May 2022 is available here.

A blogpost on the importance of the report by Annalisa Savaresi and Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh is available on the GNHRE blog.

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

Mex M. 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, who has been identified only as ‘Mex M.’, 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. This, he submitted, reflects a systemic deficit in the domestic legal system, making it impossible to challenge inaction by the State.

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, Mex M. v. Austria, application filed on 25 March 2021 (not yet communicated).

Links:
For the last-instance domestic judgment in this case, see here: https://www.vfgh.gv.at/downloads/VfGH_Beschluss_G_144_2020_vom_30._September_2020.pdf

For the full text of the application to the Court, see here: https://www.michaelakroemer.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/rechtsanwaeltin-michaela-kroemer-klimaklage-petition.pdf

For more information on the case from Fridays for Future Austria, see here.

For a statement from the applicant’s lawyer, Michaela Kroemer, see here.

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:
In 2016, the Senior Women for Climate Protection Switzerland (German: ‘Verein Klimaseniorinnen’), a Swiss organisation, brought proceedings concerning the alleged omissions of the Swiss federal government to adopt an adequate climate protection policy. They submitted that current domestic climate targets and measures are not sufficient to limit global warming to a safe level. This failure to prevent climate-related disasters, they argue, represents a failure to protect the enjoyment of the rights under Articles 2 and 8 ECHR (the rights to life and respect for private and family life, respectively) of the organization’s members. The applicants 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).

These claims were rejected by the domestic instances at three levels of jurisdiction. The Swiss Federal Supreme Court, in its ruling, considered that the case represented an actio popularis, concerned questions better suited to the political arena, and did not raise an arguable claim of a rights violation.

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.

For the seven other third party interventions filed in the case, 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 to the respondent State 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
2020 Business responsibility Deciding Body Domestic court Emissions reductions Keywords Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to life Rights at stake The United Kingdom Year

R (on the application of Friends of the Earth Ltd and others) v Heathrow Airport Ltd

Summary:
On 26 June 2018, the UK Secretary of State for Transport adopted the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS), which governs the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport. This led to challenges from several environmental campaigners, including Friends of the Earth Ltd and Plan B Earth. Among other grounds, it was argued that the Secretary of State had disregarded the UK Government’s commitments under the Paris Agreement (ratified on 17 November 2016 by the UK) when designating the ANPS.

In 2019 the Divisional Court dismissed all of the objectors’ claims in two separate judgments. However, in 2020 the Court of Appeal allowed part of Friends of the Earth’s and Plan B Earth’s grounds, and held that the ANPS was unlawful (see judgment here). The Secretary of State did not appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision. However, Heathrow Airport Ltd, owner of Heathrow Airport, sought and was granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court (UKSC). Heathrow Airport stated that it had already invested a large sum of money in promoting the third runway. On 16 December 2020, the Supreme Court unanimously decided to allow Heathrow Airport’s appeal on all grounds, ruling that the ANPS was lawful. However, the judgment states clearly that the climate must be considered at the planning permission stage of the third runway.

Human rights claims:
Under Section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998, Friends of the Earth et al. argued against interpreting section 5(8) of the Planning Act 2008 in a way that excluded consideration of the Paris Agreement temperature limit. This would result in the development of large-scale national projects posing an unacceptable risk to people’s lives and homes, in breach of Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Supreme Court found that this reasoning must fail for two reasons. First, this argument had already been raised as a separate ground before the Divisional Court, where it was rejected. This decision was not appealed to the Court of Appeal, and was therefore not considered subject to the UKSC proceedings. Secondly, even if this argument were within the scope of the appeal, it would not have succeeded because any effect of the third runway on the lives and families of those affected by the consequences of climate change would result not from the designation of the ANPS but from granting permission to develop the construction project. As Heathrow Airport Ltd. had conceded, and the respondents agreed, the ANPS requires the third runway to be evaluated against the emissions targets in place if and when an application to develop the runway were to be made (para 113 of the UKSC judgment).

Further information:
Shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision, Plan B Earth announced in a press release that it intends to take the judgment to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that reliance upon the 2 degrees Celsius target is a violation of the right to life (see here). Additionally, Plan B Earth served a pre-action letter on the UK Government alleging that its failure to develop a plan to address climate change is a violation of human rights as well as domestic and international law (see here).

Date of decision:
16 December 2020

Suggested case citation:
UK Supreme Court, R (on the application of Friends of the Earth Ltd and others) v. Heathrow Airport Ltd, UKSC 2020/0042, Judgment of 16 December 2020, [2020] UKSC 52

Case documents:
For the full judgment, click here.

To watch a webcast of the hearing, click here.

Further reading:
Joanne Hawkins, ‘A lesson in un-creativity: (R (on the application of Friends of the Earth Ltd and others) v Heathrow Airport Ltd [2020] UKSC 52’, 23(4) Environmental Law Review (2021), 344-349. Available here.

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 six young people, acting together as the ‘Youth for Climate Justice’, against 33 Council of Europe Member States. Theirs is the first climate case to come before the ECtHR. In their application, the six applicants, who are aged between 8 and 21, argue that the 33 respondent States have failed to comply with their positive obligations under Articles 2 and 8 of the Convention, read in the light of the commitments made under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. They claim that their right to life (Art. 2 ECHR) is being threatened by the effects of climate change in their home State of Portugal, including through the harms caused by forest fires. Moreover, they claim that their right to respect for their private and family life under Art. 8 ECHR is being threatened by heatwaves that force them to spend more time indoors. They also note their anxiety about their uncertain future, and the fact that, as young people, they stand to experience the worst effects of climate change. They accordingly allege a violation of Article 14 ECHR (non-discrimination), given the particular impacts of climate change on their generation. According to the applicants, the absence of adequate measures to limit global emissions constitutes, in itself, a breach of the obligations incumbent on States.

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.

Domestic proceedings:
None, this case was brought directly to the ECtHR. The applicants submit that, given the complexity of the case and their limited financial means, requiring them to exhaust the domestic remedies in each of the 33 respondent States would impose an excessive and disproportionate burden on them.

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:

For more information on the case, see the following links.

  • For more background on the case and profiles on the applicants, click here: https://youth4climatejustice.org/
  • For the original application for as submitted to the Court, click here
  • To see all of the third party interventions filed in the case to date (eight in total), click here.
  • To read the observations of the 33 respondent states in this case, click here.