Categories
Argentina Brazil Children and young people Committee on the Rights of the Child France Germany Turkey

Sacchi et al. v. Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany & Turkey

Summary:
On 23 September 2019, 16 children, among them teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, filed a petition before the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) alleging that Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey had violated their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) by making insufficient cuts to greenhouse gases and failing to encourage the world’s biggest emitters to curb carbon pollution. Each of the respondent states has ratified the UNCRC, and all of them have signed the Paris Agreement but, according to petitioners, none have made or kept commitments that align with keeping temperature rise.

The sixteen children petitioned the CRC to declare a violation of their rights due to the respondent states’ perpetuation of climate change. They also petitioned the CRC to recommend actions that the respondents must take to address climate change, specifically mitigation and adaptation measures. Their claims are based on the rights enshrined in the UNCRC, and the argument that the respondents have knowingly caused and perpetuated the climate crisis, thereby triggering the applicability of human rights obligations and duties.

In its inadmissibility decision of 22 September 2021, the Committee declared the Communication inadmissible. This decision is indicative of some of the procedural challenges that climate cases will face in the future. Whereas the Committee recognized that the authors of the Communication had victim status, and established that it had jurisdiction over the case, it found the case inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic remedies.

Adjudicating Body:
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Date:
22 September 2021

Status of case:
Declared inadmissible

Third party intervention:
On 1 May 2020, David R. Boyd and John H. Knox (the current and former UN Special Rapporteurs on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, respectively), submitted a third-party intervention regarding this Communication to the Committee. The text of the intervention is available here.

Hearing in these cases:
There were oral hearings before the CRC in these cases. The parties appeared before the Committee via videoconference at five separate hearings between May and September 2021.

Admissibility:
Arguments by the respondent States:
Three respondent States (Brazil, France and Germany) responded to the petition, arguing that it was inadmissible on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction; lack of substantiation (manifestly ill-founded); and the failure to exhaust domestic remedies.

Reply by the petitioners:
In their reply of 4 May 2020, the petitioners argued that:

1) the Committee had jurisdiction because they (the petitioners) are “directly and foreseeably injured by greenhouse gas emissions originating in the Respondents’ territory;”
2) the claims are manifestly well-founded because the children are currently suffering direct and personal harms due to climate change, and they will continue to do so in the foreseeable future; and
3) the pursuit of domestic remedies would be futile.

Findings of the CRC:
The CRC adopted a separate set of Views for each State party concerned; these will be discussed together here.

In terms of the authors’ victim status, the Committee held that they had “prima facie established that they have personally experienced a real and significant harm in order to justify their victim status.” In doing so, it held that the authors, as children, are particularly impacted by climate change, and that States have “heightened obligations to protect children from foreseeable harm”. As a result, the CRC was not precluded by Article 5(1) of the Optional Protocol from considering the communication.

In terms of jurisdiction, the CRC held, with reference to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’s Advisory Opinion OC-23/17 on the Environment and Human Rights and its own Joint Statement on Human Rights and Climate Change, that States have effective control over carbon emissions and that they are responsible for transboundary harm caused by these emissions. It found that, even though climate change is “a global collective issue that requires a global response, States parties still carry individual responsibility for their own acts or omissions in relation to climate change and their contribution to it.” In light of existing scientific evidence showing the impact of the cumulative effect of carbon emissions on the enjoyment of human rights, including rights under the Convention, the Committee considered with regard to each individual respondent State that “the potential harm of the State party’s acts or omissions regarding the carbon emissions originating in its territory was reasonably foreseeable to the State party”.

Concerning the exhaustion of domestic remedies, the Committee recalled that this requirement does not apply where these avenues do not offer objective prospects of success. In these cases, however, it examined the remedial possibilities in each State in detial, and ultimately reached a finding of inadmissibility, noting that no domestic proceedings had been initiated in the respective States concerned.

In this regard, various arguments made by the authors were unsuccessful. The argument that plaintiffs from other countries were barred from proceedings was disregarded for lack of specific examples (Communication concerning Argentina, § 10.18). The Committee further referred to the existence of discretionary remedies, which the authors had not used. The authors’ “doubts about the prospects of success of any remedy” was not sufficient for the Committee to consider they had exhausted “all domestic remedies that were reasonably effective and available to them to challenge the alleged violation of their rights under the Convention.” The references to environmental cases in which the State parties took several years to reach a decision was not considered sufficient evidence to show that domestic remedies would be unreasonably prolonged.

Merits:
Not examined

Remedies:
Not applicable

Separate opinions:
Not applicable

Implementation measures taken:
Not applicable

Keywords:
Admissibility, children’s rights, UNCRC, domestic remedies, transboundary harms, victim status.

Links:
For a summary of the five cases from the UN’s treaty body media service, click here.

For background on the case, click here.

The text of the petition is available on Climate Case Chart, click here to access it.

The full text of the Committee’s Views can be found:

  • Regarding Argentina, the Views can be found here.
  • Regarding Brazil, the Views can be found here.
  • Regarding France, the Views can be found here.
  • Regarding Germany, the Views can be found here.
  • Regarding Turkey, the Views can be found here.

Suggested citation for the Communication concerning Argentina:
Committee on the Rights of the Child, Sacchi et al. v. Argentina (dec.), 22 September 2021, CRC/C/88/D/104/2019.

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
2020 Business responsibility Domestic court Emissions reductions France Standing/admissibility

Les Amis de la Terre, Survie v. Total SA

Summary:

Total S.A. is a French energy company with oil projects in Uganda and Tanzania. According to the French “loi de vigilance”, companies with a certain size that meet certain criteria must develop a “plan de vigilance” documenting how they and the companies in their supply chain respect human rights and the environment in their business activities. The applicants claim that Total’s environmental plan (part of the “plan de vigilance”) is not suitable for achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. In addition to better respect for human rights, the NGOs have demanded that Total take more effective measures to protect the environment. The first instance court, the Nanterre Civil Court of Justice, found that it had no jurisdiction over the case and that it fell instead within the jurisdiction of the commercial courts. The applicant NGOs appealed. The Court of Appeal of Versailles confirmed the judgment of the first instance, and the NGOs are now considering filing an appeal before the French Supreme Court.

Admissibility:
The Court confirmed the judgment of the first instance court, which had decided that the dispute fell within the jurisdiction of the commercial court. 

Date of filing:
16 March 20

Date of decision:
10 December 2020

Suggested citation:
Court of Appeal of Versailles, Les Amis de la Terre, Survie v. Total SA, case no. RG20/01692, decision of 10 December 2020.

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

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

Admissibility:
Pending

Merits:
Pending

Remedies:
Pending

Separate opinions:
Pending

Implementation measures taken:
N/A

Date:
Pending

Type of Forum:
Regional

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

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

Links:
https://youth4climatejustice.org/

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

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

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

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

Commune de Grande-Synthe v. France

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

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

Merits:
Pending

Remedies:
Pending

Separate opinions:
Pending

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

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

Date:
Pending

Type of Forum:
Domestic

Status of case:
Pending

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

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