Families Call for Increased Climate Action in Court Case Against EU

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Ten families from within and outside Europe are taking the European Parliament and the Council of the EU to the European General Court, asserting that their livelihoods are at risk as a result of the EU’s failure to adequately address climate change.

Referred to as the ‘People’s Climate Case,’ the lawsuit declares that, among other aspects, the EU’s existing 2030 climate target is inadequate to prevent dangerous climate change and protect their rights to life, health, occupation and property.

The families, plaintiffs in the case, come from Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Kenya, Fiji and the Swedish Sami Youth Association Sáminuorra. Their claim, based on an assessment that climate change is already impacting their livelihoods, homes, traditional family occupation and culture, calls on the EU to define a higher emission reduction target to protect citizens’ fundamental rights, justified by the requirements of higher rank EU and international law.

The case asserts that the level of greenhouse gases (GHGs) permitted through recently approved EU emission regulation legal acts do not represent the EU’s highest level of ambition according to its potential to reduce emissions, claiming that an acceptable level of emissions reduction should be substantially higher than 40% by 2030.

The People’s Climate Case has drawn support from a variety of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientists and citizens, including German NGO Protect the Planet, which is bearing costs related to the legal case. Research think tank Climate Analytics has provided scientific materials evidencing the ways in which the families are impacted by climate change as well as what can be done to reduce emissions beyond the current EU 2030 target.

The case is also supported by Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, Europe’s largest NGO coalition working on climate and energy issues with more than 150 member organizations. Wendel Trio, Director of CAN Europe, said the case underscores the urgency and necessity for the EU to increase its 2030 climate target to respect the commitments taken in the Paris Agreement on climate change, including the agreement to pursue efforts to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5ºC.

The People’s Climate Case follows a rising number of climate change litigation cases around the world, as previously reported by the SDG Knowledge Hub. In April 2018, Friends of the Earth Netherlands threatened the multinational Royal Dutch Shell with legal action if it does not cut back its oil and gas investments to be compatible with the Paris Agreement. Information on climate change legislation and litigation around the world can be found in the online database ‘Climate Change Laws of the World,’ a collaboration between the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), UK, and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at the Columbia Law School, New York, US. A further publication titled, ‘Global Trends in Climate Change Legislation and Litigation: 2018 Snapshot,’ notes that strategic climate litigation is increasingly challenging governments and corporations on climate action, including by pushing courts to examine linkages between climate change and rights protection.

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