Ten families, including children, from Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Kenya, Fiji, and the Swedish Sami Youth Association Sáminuorra, brought an action in the EU General Court seeking to compel the EU to take more stringent greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions reductions. Plaintiffs allege that the EU’s existing target to reduce domestic ghg emissions by 40% by 2030, as compared to 1990 levels, is insufficient to avoid dangerous climate change and threatens plaintiffs’ fundamental rights of life, health, occupation, and property.
The lawsuit has two major components. First, plaintiffs bring a nullification action, asking the court to declare three EU legal acts as void for failing to set adequate ghg emissions targets. The three EU legal acts are: Directive 2003/87/EC governing emissions from large power generation installations (ETS); regulation 2018/EU on emissions from industry, transport, buildings, agriculture, and etc. (ESR); and regulation 2018/EU on emissions from and removals by land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF). Plaintiffs argue that inadequate emissions reductions violate higher order laws that protect fundamental rights to health, education, occupation, and equal treatment as well as provide obligations to protect the environment. These higher rank laws include: the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (ChFR), the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the Paris Agreement. Plaintiffs ask the court to order that the three emissions reductions laws remain in force until improved versions of the Acts can be enacted. Art. 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) is the basis for this procedural action.
The second action concerns non-contractual liability. Article 340 of the TFEU provides a mechanism for injunctive relief when three conditions are met: 1) there is an unlawful act by the EU institution(s), 2) the unlawful act is a serious breach of a law that protects individual rights, and 3) there is a sufficient causal link between the breach and the damages.
Demanded relief is an injunction to compel the EU to set more stringent ghg emissions reductions targets through the existing framework of the ETS, ESR and LULUCF regimes in order to bring the EU into compliance with its legal obligations. Plaintiffs assert this would require a 50%-60% reduction in ghg emissions below 1990 levels by 2030 or whatever level the court finds appropriate.