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The “Peoples’ Climate Case” summarized

Hugo Leith, Roda Verheyen and Gerd Winter

elni Review 2018, Issue 1, pp. 25-27.

The case, dubbed the people’s climate case, is brought by children and their parents, working in agriculture and tourism in the EU and abroad who are and will increasingly be adversely affected in their livelihoods and their physical well-being by climate change effects such as droughts, flooding, heat waves, sea level rise and the disappearance of cold seasons. They are supported and joined by an association of indigenous Sami youth. The applicants are engaged in a range of economic activities, including the cultivation of crops, forestry management, animal herding, and eco-tourism. For each of the families, climate change has in some cases already curtailed their activities and livelihoods.
The Defendants are the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. These are the institutions of the Union responsible for the adoption of the legal acts challenged by this application. The Applicants are represented by the three authors of this article. They bring two related applications concerning the responsibility of the Union for emissions of greenhouse gases (‘GHGs’), leading to dangerous climate change. They contend that the Union has failed and continues to fail to meet its urgent responsibilities to limit the emission of GHGs, in breach of its binding obligations of higher rank law. This breach currently manifests in three recently adopted legal acts of the European Parliament and the Council, which cover different sectors of the economy.

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  1. Directive (EU) 2018/410 of the European Parliament and the of the Council of 14 March 2018 amending Directive 2003/87/EC to enhance cost-effective emission reductions and low-carbon investments, and Decision (EU) 2015/1814, OJ 2018 L 76/3.
  2. Regulation (EU) 2018/842 of the European Parliament and of the Council on binding annual greenhouse gas emission reductions by Member States from 2021 to 2030 contributing to climate action to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement and amending Regulation (EU) No 525/2013, OJ 2018 L 156/26
  3. Regulation (EU) 2018/841 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry in the 2030 climate and energy framework, and amending Regulation (EU) 525/2013 and Decision 529/2013/EU, OJ 2018 L 156/1.
  4. Court of Justice of the European Union, 1963, Judgment of the Court of 15 July 1963. Plaumann & Co. v Commission of the European Economic Community (Case 25-62).
  5. Gutachten des Gerichtshofs (Plenum) vom 18. Dezember 2014 Gutachten nach Art. 218 Abs. 11 AEUV Gutachten nach Art. 218 Abs. 11 AEUV – Entwurf eines internationalen Übereinkommens – Beitritt der Europäischen Union zur Europäischen Konvention zum Schutz der Menschenrechte und Grundfreiheiten – Vereinbarkeit des Entwurfs mit dem EU‑Vertrag und dem AEU‑Vertrag Gutachten 2/13.