Categories
2020 Canada Domestic court Emissions reductions Fossil fuel extraction Non-discrimination Right to life Standing/admissibility

Cecilia La Rose v Her Majesty the Queen

Facts of the case:

Plaintiffs comprising of 15 children and youths from various parts of Canada sued the Government and Attorney General of Canada alleging violations of the right to life and right to equality under Sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the constitutional and common law duty to protect the integrity of common natural resources in public trust. According to the plaintiffs, the impugned conduct of the respondents consisted in: continuing to cause, contribute to and allow a level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions incompatible with a Stable Climate System (defined as a climate capable of sustaining human life and liberties); adopting GHG emission targets that are inconsistent with the best available science about what is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change and restore a Stable Climate System; failing to meet the Defendants’ own GHG emission targets; and actively participating in and supporting the development, expansion and operation of industries and activities involving fossil fuels that emit a level of GHGs incompatible with a Stable Climate System.

The defendants, while accepting the plaintiffs’ concerns about the seriousness of climate change and its potential impacts, filed a motion to strike their claim alleging that their claim is not justiciable.

Date of decision:

27 October 2020

Admissibility:

On 27 October 2020 the Federal Court in Ottawa granted the defendants’ motion. The Court answered the question of justiciability of the claims of Charter violations for the reason that the impugned conduct is of undue breadth and diffuse nature, and that the remedies sought by the plaintiffs were inappropriate. The Court also found that it had no constitutional obligation to intervene on the matter as there is room for disagreement between reasonable people on how climate change should be addressed. On the issue of justiciability of the public trust doctrine invoked by the plaintiffs, the Court found that the question of existence of the doctrine is a legal question which courts can resolve. However, the Court found that the plaintiffs’ claim did not disclose a reasonable prospect of success for the purposes of its admissibility.

Merits:

NA

Status of the case:

The plaintiffs have appealed against the Federal Court’s order before the Federal Court of Appeal.

Suggested case citation:

Federal Court of Ottawa, Cecilia La Rose v Her Majesty the Queen, T-1750-19, judgment of 27 October 2020, 2020 FC 1008

Case documents:

For the complaint filed by the plaintiffs on 25 October 2019, click here.

For the Government’s statement of defence notified on 7 February 2020, click here.

For the plaintiff’s reply to the Government’s motion to strike, filed on 31 August 2020, click here.

For the Federal Court of Ottawa’s order dated 27 October 2020, click here.

For the Memorandum of Appeal filed by the plaintiffs on 5 March 2021, click here.

Further reading:

Camille Cameron, Riley Weyman, ‘Recent Youth-Led and Rights-Based Climate Change Litigation in Canada: Reconciling Justiciability, Charter Claims and Procedural Choices,’ 34(1) Journal of Environmental Law (2021), Pages 195–207. Available here.

Categories
2020 Austria Domestic court Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights Keywords Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to life Rights at stake Standing/admissibility State concerned Year

Greenpeace et al. v. Austria (The Zoubek Case)

Summary:
On 20 February 2020, Greenpeace Austria and other applicants called on the Austrian Constitutional Court to invalidate the preferential tax treatment of aviation companies over rail transportation companies in two Austrian tax laws. They claim that this preferential treatment would lead to an unjustified favoring of passenger air traffic and a disadvantage for less climate-damaging means of transport (e.g. railroads). Furthermore, the value-added tax exemption for cross-border flights and the kerosene exemption for domestic flights lead to higher prices for rail than for air travel and thus, contribute to climate change. Against this background, the applicants alleged that their rights under Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) were violated, since the Austrian State has not fulfilled its duty to protect its citizens from the consequences of climate change.

On 30 September 2020, the Constitutional Court dismissed the application as inadmissible because it considered that the plaintiffs were not covered by the challenged legislation, which does not apply to rail transport, but only to air transport.

One of the applicants, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and Uhthoff’s syndrome, took this case to the European Court of Human Rights. He alleges a violation of his rights under, among others, Article 8 ECHR. The case, known as Mex M. v. Austria, it was filed on 25 March 2021 and has not yet been communicated.

Date of decision:
30 September 2020

Status of case:
Dismissed

Suggested citation:
Austrian Verfassungsgerichtshof, Greenpeace et al. v. Austria, Decision of 30 September 2020 – G 144-145/2020-13, V 332/2020-13.

Links:
For the decision of the Constitutional Court, see here.

For the application, see 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.

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

Urgenda Foundation v. the Netherlands

Summary:
This case, brought in 2013 by the Urgenda foundation and hundreds of Dutch citizens against the Netherlands, has become the leading climate and human rights judgment, and served as inspiration for similar litigation around the world. The final judgment in this case was issued in 2019, and in this case the domestic courts not only found that the Dutch climate policy had violated Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the rights to life and respect for private and family life, respectively), but also issued an injunction requiring greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Remedies ordered:
District Court of The Hague had previously ruled that the government was obligated to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 in comparison to 1990 levels. The District Court’s decision was appealed by the State. The Court of Appeal upheld the District Court’s decision on 9 October 2018. After the State’s appeal to the Supreme Court, the Supreme court ruled in favour of Urgenda and held that the government has a legal duty to prevent dangerous climate change.

Date of final domestic judgment:
20 December 2019

More on this case:
For the final judgment in Dutch, click here.

For the summary provided by the Supreme Court (English), click here.

Recommended reading:
Ingrid Leijten, ‘Human Rights v. Insufficient Climate Action: The Urgenda Case’ 37(2) Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights (2019)

Benoit Mayer, ‘The State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda Foundation: Ruling of the Court of Appeal of The Hague (9 October 2018)’ 8(1) Transnational Environmental Law (2019), 167-192.

Maiko Meguro, ‘State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda Foundation’ 114(4) American Journal of International Law (2020), 729-735.

Suggested citation:
Dutch Supreme Court (Hoge Raad), Urgenda Foundation v. the Netherlands, Judgment of 20 December 2019, No. 19/00135, ECLI:NL:HR:2019:2006.

Categories
2019 Human Rights Committee New Zealand Non-refoulement Prohibition of torture Right to life

Ioane Teitiota v. New Zealand

Summary:

The applicant submitted that New Zealand had violated his right to life under the ICCPR by removing him to Kiribati, an island state where, he submitted, the situation was becoming increasingly unstable and precarious due to sea level rise caused by global warming. The HRC accepted the claim that sea level rise and climate change-related harms can trigger non-refoulement obligations, but found that there is still time to take measures to protect the population of Kiribati.

Admissibility:

Concerning the imminence of the risk faced, the Committee noted that the author was not alleging a hypothetical future harm, but a real predicament caused by a lack of potable water and employment possibilities, and a threat of serious violence caused by land disputes. The author had sufficiently demonstrated, for the purpose of admissibility, the existence of a real risk of harm to his right to life, given the impact of climate change and associated sea level rise on the habitability of Kiribati and on the security situation on the islands.

Merits:

The HRC found that environmental degradation can compromise the effective enjoyment of the right to life, and if severe it can violate that right. The Committee accepted the author’s claim that sea level rise is likely to render Kiribati uninhabitable. Without robust national and international efforts, the effects of climate change in receiving States may expose individuals to a violation of articles 6 or 7 ICCPR, thereby triggering the non-refoulement obligations of sending States. However, it noted that the time frame of 10 to 15 years, as suggested by the author, could allow for intervening acts by Kiribati, with the assistance of the international community, to take affirmative measures to protect and, where necessary, relocate its population.

Remedies ordered:

None

Separate opinions:

Yes

Implementation measures taken:

N/A

Date:

24 October 2019

Status of case:

final

Suggested case citation:

Human Rights Committee, Ioane Teitiota v. New Zealand, No. 2728/2016, Communication of 24 October 2019.

Full text:

For the full-text of the decision in the case, click here.

Further reading:

Adaena Sinclair-Blakemore, ‘Teitiota v New Zealand: A Step Forward in the Protection of Climate Refugees under International Human Rights Law?’ Oxford Human Rights Hub, 28th January 2020, https://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/teitiota-v-new-zealand-a-step-forward-in-the-protection-of-climate-refugees-under-international-human-rights-law/

Keywords:

climate refugees, affectedness, non-refoulement

Categories
2019 Deforestation Domestic court Emissions reductions India Paris Agreement Right to life

Riddhima Pandey v. Union of India and Others

Summary:

The petitioner, Riddhima Pandey, a 9-year old girl residing in the Indian State of Uttarakhand, approached the National Green Tribunal (a special tribunal exercising jurisdiction over environmental cases) in order to review the State and concerned authorities’ inaction on mitigation measures in the face of climate science, and the systemic failure to implement environmental laws (in a manner that addresses climate change). The petitioner based her claim on the ground that the States duty to take the concerned climate action arose out of the public trust doctrine, which the Supreme Court of India has previously held to be based in fundamental rights, directive principles and the preamble of the Indian Constitution. The application in this case was explicitly inspired by the petition in Juliana v. US where also, the child petitioners invoked the public trust doctrine to contest the US government’s inaction.

The petitioner prayed for the court to, among other things, direct the concerned governmental authorities to properly account for the climate related impacts of industrial and infrastructure projects while granting environmental clearances, account for climate impacts of every individual case of forest diversion and ensuring sufficient compensatory afforestation, direct the government to prepare a national greenhouse gas emissions inventory as well as a national carbon budget against which particular projects’ emissions impacts could be assessed.

Date of decision:

15 January 2019

Tribunals decision:

The National Green Tribunal dismissed the case, reasoning that there is no reason to presume that the existing environmental legislations and regulations already address climate change and require that climate related impacts be sufficiently accounted for during environmental impact assessments.

Status of the case:

Decided.

Suggested case citation:

National Green Tribunal (New Delhi, India), Ridhima Pandey v. Union of India and Others, Application No. 187/2017, judgment of 15 January 2019)

Case documents:

For the petition filed before the National Green Tribunal on 25 March 2017, click here.

For the order of the National Green Tribunal on 15 January 2019, click here.

Categories
2018 Biodiversity Domestic court Emissions reductions Imminent risk Margin of appreciation Nepal Paris Agreement Right to a healthy environment Right to health Right to life Right to subsistence/food

Padam Bahadur Shrestha v. Office of Prime Minister and Others

Facts of the case:

The petitioner, Padam Bahadur Shrestha had applied to the concerned authorities in Nepal to enact a separate law on climate change in August 2018, but did not receive a response. He thus filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Nepal alleging that the situation in Nepal that is marked by absence of a special climate change legislation, inadequacies in existing environmental legislation in addressing climate change, and poor implementation of the State’s climate change policy suffices to establish a violation of the right to life, right to live in a healthy and clean environment, right to health care and right to food found in Articles 16, 30, 35, and 36 of the Nepali Constitution.

Date of decision:

25 December 2018

Court’s decision:

The Supreme Court of Nepal found that an amendment to the existing laws and introduction of a new consolidated law that addresses climate change was necessary and issued detailed directions on what features the new law must contain. It based this order on the reasons that such would facilitate Nepal’s compliance with its obligations under international law, including the Paris Agreement and that climate mitigation and adaptation directly concern fundamental rights including the right to life, right to have nutritious food and the right to a clean environment. It further held that although the Environmental Protection Act of 1997 addressed environmental protection along the dimension of climate change, its provisions were inadequate regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Status of the case:

Decided.

Suggested case citation:

The Supreme Court of Nepal, Padam Bahadur Shreshta v Office of the Prime Minister and Others, NKP, Part 61, Vol. 3, judgment of 25 December 2018.

Case documents:

For the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nepal (in Nepali), click here.

For an unofficial English translation of the judgment (authored by Hardik Subedi), click here.

Categories
2018 Adaptation Domestic court Farming Human dignity Pakistan Right to a healthy environment Right to life

Leghari v. Pakistan

Summary:
In Leghari v. Pakistan, a farmer claimed that his fundamental rights, including the right to life, the right to a healthy environment and human dignity, had been violated by the failure to take action against climate change, which was already impacting Pakistan in the form of floods and other climactic changes. The High Court of Lahore granted his claims in 2015, finding that the government had failed to implement its own Climate Change Policy and the corresponding implementation framework. The Court created a Climate Change Commission to monitor the government’s response.

Arguments by the applicant:
The applicant submitted that the domestic National Climate Change Policy of 2012 and the Framework for its implementation had not been implemented. Absent strategies to transition to heat resilient crops or to conserve water, he argued, he would not be able to sustain his livelihood as a farmer. He submitted that this inaction had violated his fundamental rights, in particular, Article 9 (right to life, including the right to a healthy and clean environment) and Article 14 (human dignity) of the Constitution, along with the constitutional principles of social and economic justice. In doing so, he also invoked the principles of public trust, sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the principle of intergenerational equity. The most immediate and serious threat to Pakistan, he argued, concerned water, food and energy security.

Findings:
The High Court of Lahore granted Mr. Leghari’s claims on 4 September 2015, finding that “the delay and lethargy of the State in implementing the Framework offend the fundamental rights of the citizens.” It ordered the government to nominate “climate change focal persons” to help ensure the implementation of the domestic legal Framework and to identify action points. To monitor the government’s progress, it also created a Climate Change Commission made up of government representatives, NGOs, and technical experts. A supplemental decision of 14 September 2015 nominated 21 Commission members and granted this body various powers. On 25 January 2018, the Court considered a report from the Climate Change Committee finding that, until January 2017, 66% of the Framework for Implementation Climate Change Policy’s priority actions had been implemented. The Court accordingly dissolved the Climate Change Commission, creating a Standing Committee on Climate Change in its place.

In the 2018 judgment, the Court considered the need for environmental, climate and water justice, and the need for both mitigation and, in the specific case of Pakistan, adaptation measures in response to climate change. It noted that “we have to move on. The existing environmental jurisprudence has to be fashioned to meet the needs of something more urgent and overpowering i.e., Climate Change.” (para. 12). It held, too, that “[f]rom Environmental Justice, which was largely localized and limited to our own ecosystems and biodiversity, we have moved on to Climate Justice.” (para. 20).

Further reading:
Birsha Ohdedar, ‘Climate Change Litigation in India and Pakistan: Analyzing Opportunities and Challenges’, in Ivano Alogna, Christine Bakker, and Jean-Pierre Gauci (eds), Climate Change Litigation: Global Perspectives (Brill | Nijhoff 2021), 103-123,  https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004447615_006.

Ivan Mark Ladores, ‘In the Name of Climate Change: How Leghari v Federation of Pakistan is Instrumental to the Pursuit of the Right to Life in the Philippines’, 5(2) Groningen Journal of International Law (2017), https://doi.org/10.21827/5a6af9f49574a.

Emily Barritt and Boitumelo Sediti, ‘The Symbolic Value of Leghari v Federation of Pakistan: Climate Change Adjudication in the Global South’ 30(2) King’s Law Journal (2019) 203-210, 10.1080/09615768.2019.1648370.

Suggested citation:
Lahore High Court, Asghar Leghari v. Pakistan, Case W.P. No. 25501/2015, Judgment of 25 January 2018.