Climate activists and human rights defenders Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation European Convention on Human Rights Non-discrimination Paris Agreement Right to a healthy environment Right to culture Right to education Right to health Right to life Right to subsistence/food Right to water Self-determination Turkey Uncategorized

A.S. & S.A. & E.N.B v. Presidency of Türkiye & The Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change


On 13 April 2023, Türkiye submitted its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The NDC states that Türkiye aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by 41% by 2030 compared to the business-as-usual scenario with 2012 as its base year, and plans on peaking emissions by 2038 at the latest. This would increase CO2 emissions by 30% until 2030. Due to this further increase in CO2 emissions, climate activists Atlas Sarrafoğlu, Ela Naz Birdal and Seren Anaçoğlu filed a lawsuit against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change before the Council of State (the highest administrative court in Türkiye) on 8 May 2023.

The plaintiffs claim that Türkiye’s NDC is inadequate under the Paris Agreement and that the resulting increase in CO2 emissions violates their human rights under the country’s constitution, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the European Convention on Human Rights. The rights they claim to have been violated include: the right to life, the right to intergenerational equality, the right to the protection of one’s private life, the right to health, cultural rights, the right to develop one’s material and spiritual existence, the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment, the right to education, the right to work, and the right to healthy food and water. Because of the alleged inadequacy of the NDC under the Paris Agreement, they demand its annulment and the creation of a more ambitious commitment.

Status of Case:


Further reading:

News Article by PAMACC:

News Article by the Turkish human rights press agency “Bianet”:

Date Last updated:

November 10th, 2023

2022 Class action Climate activists and human rights defenders Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Indigenous peoples rights New Zealand Right to life Self-determination

Smith v. Attorney-General


In March 2022, a prominent Māori landowner and advocate for tribal climate concerns took a significant step by bringing a case before the High Court of New Zealand. The central argument of the case was that the government had violated fundamental human rights, particularly the right to life and minority rights, due to its inadequate response to climate change. The plaintiff’s core contention was that successive governments had consistently failed to address the severe consequences of climate change, with a particular emphasis on its disproportionate impact on the Māori community.

Initially, the case centred on a single cause of action, which involved the government’s breach of duty to take all necessary steps to reduce New Zealand emissions and actively protect the plaintiff and his descendants from the adverse effects of climate change. Later, following a court order issued by Justice Johnston in May 2020, the plaintiff expanded the case to include two additional distinct causes of action. These additional claims were based on alleged violations of the rights to life and the rights of minorities as outlined in sections 8 and 20 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and the government’s failure to act in accordance with its obligations as stipulated in the Treaty of Waitangi (one of New Zealand’s founding documents, agreed in 1840 between the British Crown and Māori leaders). The Court eventually dismissed all three claims.


The plaintiff’s claim was multi-faceted, asserting that the government’s actions, or lack thereof, constituted violations of human rights, particularly the right to life and minority rights, with a focus on the Māori population. The claim included allegations concerning the breach of duty, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and the Treaty of Waitangi.


On July 15, 2022, the Court rendered a decision in favour of the government, dismissing all three claims presented by the plaintiff. The Court found the plaintiff’s common law duty of care claim untenable, reasoning that it failed to define specific legal obligations and exceeded the boundaries of incremental development of new duties. Moreover, the Court asserted that the creation of an effective remedy, such as court-monitored monitoring, would necessitate an institutional expertise, democratic participation, and accountability beyond the capabilities of the court process alone.

The Court also rejected the plaintiff’s assertion regarding the right to life, deeming it untenable due to the absence of substantial evidence indicating a ‘real and identifiable’ threat to individuals or groups. Instead, the Court viewed climate change as a general threat impacting all New Zealanders due to its broad-reaching consequences. The Court further noted that the plaintiff’s argument concerning the breach of minority rights lacked merit since the relevant regulations primarily prohibited the Crown from infringing upon minority rights rather than imposing positive duties.

Additionally, the Court clarified that claims based on the Treaty and fiduciary obligations were not valid, as they hinged on the same general duty initially put forth in the first cause of action, which the Court had already rejected as unsound. The Court emphasized that the plaintiff’s contention that this duty was owed exclusively to the Māori population, rather than the wider public, further undermined its validity.


The case documents are accessible via Climate Case Chart: Click here.

Status of the case:


Suggested citation:

Michael John Smith v. The Attorney-General, [2022] NZHC 1693 (15 July 2022), The High Court of New Zealand.

Last updated:

20 October 2023.

2023 Colombia Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Indigenous peoples rights Indigenous peoples' rights Just transition litigation Participation rights Right to culture Self-determination Uncategorized

Pirá Paraná Indigenous Council and Another v. Ministry of Environment and Others (Pirá Paraná Case)


On July 15th, 2022, the Pirá Paraná Indigenous Council, in collaboration with the Association of Indigenous Traditional Authorities of the River Pirá Paraná, initiated a ‘tutela’ proceeding against private corporations and Colombian authorities. This expedited legal procedure is only available when regular mechanisms are deemed inadequate to ensure the protection of the plaintiffs’ rights. The legal action arises from concerns related to the Baka Rokarire project, particularly its carbon credit initiatives, within the Indigenous territory situated in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, located in the Vaupés region. The central issue at hand is the potential violation of Indigenous fundamental human rights, including self-determination, self-governance, and the preservation of cultural diversity and integrity. The claimants argue that the individual who represented the Indigenous community in the project lacked proper legitimacy, while public authorities allegedly failed to safeguard Indigenous rights throughout the project’s registration and development. Private companies are accused of neglecting human rights due diligence standards and deliberately excluding Indigenous authorities from the decision-making process.


The plaintiffs argue that the Baka Rokarire project, especially its carbon credit initiatives, violate their fundamental human rights as Indigenous people. Importantly, the lawsuit filed by the Pirá Paraná community does not contest land ownership rights but instead focuses on preserving the integrity of the territory, which holds great cultural and ancestral significance for Indigenous populations. Their primary concern centers around the absence of genuine Indigenous representation in the project’s agreement. Furthermore, they accuse public authorities of failing to fulfill their responsibilities in safeguarding Indigenous rights during the project’s registration and execution. Private companies involved are accused of neglecting human rights due diligence standards and intentionally excluding Indigenous authorities from the project’s development. The main argument is that the potential negative impact on Indigenous rights justifies legal intervention.


Initially, based on the subsidiarity of the tutela mechanism, the Judicial Court deemed the case inadmissible, citing that the plaintiffs could have pursued other available legal avenues. The court’s rationale was that the tutela mechanism was not the suitable course of action in this instance, as there was no clear evidence indicating the presence of irreparable damage in the case. The Administrative Tribunal upheld this decision. However, in April 2023, a significant development occurred when Colombia’s Constitutional Court took the unprecedented step of reviewing the case. This marks the first-ever evaluation of a case involving the voluntary carbon market, potentially setting a legal precedent that will delineate the boundaries of activities permitted within territories inhabited by Indigenous communities in carbon credit projects. The Constitutional Court’s review will also encompass an examination of whether the tutela mechanism is the appropriate means for challenging these projects, especially concerning Indigenous rights. This decision to review represents a noteworthy opportunity to provide clarity regarding Indigenous rights and cultural preservation within the context of carbon offset initiatives.


The case documents are accessible via Climate Case Chart: Click here.

Status of the case:

The case is currently pending before the Constitutional Court of Colombia.

Last updated:

05 October 2023.

Children and young people Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Germany Paris Agreement Right to a healthy environment Self-determination

Marlene Lemme et al. v. Bayern

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 ten youth plaintiffs concerning the codification of the adjusted climate goals brought about in response to the Neubauer v. Germany judgment of the German Bundesverfassungsgericht. According to the applicants, in their constitutional claim, the German States (“Bundesländer”) share responsibility for protecting their lives and civil liberties, along with those of future generations, within their spheres of competence. They argue that the lack of legislation on climate action on the state level violates the German Constitution and the reductions regime under the Paris Agreement, and that they have a fundamental right to defend themselvse against future rights impacts caused by the lack of climate measures.

The Bavarian Climate Protection Act (Bayerisches Klimaschutzgesetz) aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030. It also aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and requires Bavaria to offset emissions after 2030. This has been implemented through a climate protection program. According to the plaintiffs, the lack of a deadline of adaptation strategy, and the failure to provide differentiated targets or instruments for implementation of compliance, mean that the Bavarian law falls short of the Federal requirements on climate protection 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 various freedoms guaranteed under the domestic Constitution, especially those in Art. 2(1) of the German Constitution (right to free development of one’s personality), 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

Related proceedings:
In addition to the constitutional proceedings, a subsidiary popular complaint has been brought by the same group of applicants to contend that the Bavarian Climate Protection Act (Bayerisches Klimaschutzgesetz), along with the wider regulatory context, is in violation of constitutional rights.

Suggested citation:
German Bundesverfassungsgericht, Marlene Lemme and Nine Other v. Bavaria, constitutional complaint of 30 June 2021.

For the other related cases see:

Luca Salis et al. v. Sachsen-Anhalt

Emma Johanna Kiehm et al. v. Brandenburg

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

Business responsibility Children and young people Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Extreme poverty Gender / women-led 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

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.