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
2020 Domestic court Emissions reductions Mexico Non-discrimination Right to a healthy environment Right to health

Greenpeace Mexico v. Ministry of Energy and Others

Summary:
This indirect amparo suit was brought by Greenpeace Mexico against the Mexican government, contesting the Mexican Sectoral Energy Plan for 2020-2024. Greenpeace argued that this policy promotes the use of fossil fuels over sustainable energy sources, thereby violating fundamental rights. The case invokes the pro persona principle and the human and constitutional rights to equality, a healthy environment, the protection of health, and access to renewable energy, as well as the legality principle. It also invokes the principle of progressive interpretation of human rights and the concept of positive and negative obligations.

In 2020, a Mexico City District Court ordered the suspension of the policy in an injunction.

Procedural steps:
The Third District Administrative Court for Mexico City declined to hear the case on grounds of lack of specialization in the matter. On 8 September 2020, the Mexico City District Court accepted to hear the case.

On 21 September 2020, the Mexico City District Court issued an injunction suspending the Sectoral Energy Plan (2020-2024). The court noted the imminence and irreparability of the harms at stake, finding that the it was an ‘indisputable fact’ that the limitation of the production and use of renewable energies encourages the operation of conventional electricity generation technologies using fossil fuels and thereby causing greater emissions, which affects human healthy and the environment. Because of this, the degree of imminence and irreparability of the risk at stake did not require specific proof, because it had been established through logical reasoning (p. 29).

Date of filing:
20 August 2020

Suggested citation:
Mexico City District Court, Greenpeace Mexico v. Ministry of Energy and Others, injunction no. 372/2020, 21 September 2020.

More information:
The full text of the injunction is provided on climatecasechart.com.

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
2020 Children and young people Domestic court Emissions reductions Indigenous peoples' rights Standing/admissibility United States of America

Juliana et al. v. USA et al.

Summary:
On 12 August 2015, the case of Juliana v. the United States was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. The 21 young plaintiffs in this case, who were represented by the NGO “Our Children’s Trust”, asserted that the government had violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property through its climate change-causing actions. Moreover, they stated that the government had failed to protect essential public trust resources by encouraging and permitting the combustion of fossil fuels. The Court of Appeal held that the plaintiff’s requested remedies should be addressed by the executive and legislative branches rather than by the courts. At present, the youth plaintiffs are planning to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court or to settle discussions with the Biden-Harris administration.

Court’s decision:
U.S. District Court of Oregon Judge Ann Aiken declined to dismiss the lawsuit. She ruled that access to a clean environment constitutes a fundamental right. Judge Aiken’s judgment was reversed by a Ninth Circuit Panel due to the plaintiffs’ lack of standing to sue. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recognized the gravity of the evidence on the plaintiffs’s injuries from climate change. The panel of judges recognized the existence of harms to the applicants, and the plausibility of arguing that these harms had been caused by climate change. Nevertheless, the Court held that the plaintiffs’ requested remedies should be addressed by the executive and legislative branches and not by the courts. One of the three judges affirmed the plaintiff’s constitutional climate rights in a dissent.

Date of decision:
17 January 2020

Further reading:
The full text of the Ninth Circuit’s order on interlocutory appeal is available here.

Suggested citation:
Juliana and Others v. the United States and Others, 947 F.3d 1159 (9th Cir. 2020).