On January 31, 2023, the NGO Declic and a number of individuals lodged a case before the Cluj Court of Appeal against the Romanian Government, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests, seeking that the court order the authorities to take all necessary measures to reduce GHG emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. They also demand that the Court order the Romanian Government to take adequate measures to increase the share of renewable energy in final energy consumption to 45% and to increase energy efficiency by 13% by 2030. Further, they requested the court to order the Romanian authorities to implement concrete and coherent climate change mitigation and adaptation plans, including annual carbon budgets, within a maximum of 30 days from the final judgment, in order to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
The plaintiffs have asked the court to answer three questions:
1. Whether national authorities are in breach of their legal obligations by applying GHG emission reduction targets for 2030 that are significantly lower than the target agreed at EU level for 2030.
2. Whether, according to objective standards (such as the reasonableness tests applied by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), the measures taken by central authorities are sufficient, proportionate and will result in limiting global warming to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius?
3. Wheter the measures taken by the defendants are compatible with the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Romanian Constitution, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the ECHR (right to a future in accordance with human dignity, right to health and an ecologically balanced environment, right to life and privacy).
The claimants argue that the defendants have both general and specific legal obligations to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The general obligation stems from a number of sources of law, namely: (i) the Constitution of Romania, which provides that the Romanian government shall ensure a better quality of life for its citizens, and restore and protect the environment, (ii) the Paris Agreement, and (iii) the European Climate Law. They highlight that the public property does not mean that the government can exploit it with no regard to the consequences, but rather in the public interest . Natural resources such as soil, water, air, wildlife are part of an enduring heritage, and the government has a statutory duty to preserve them in order to safeguard citizens’ constitutional rights to a healthy environment, to life, and the like. Specific obligations derive from European and national secondary legislation and soft law instruments (Repower EU and domestic plans) and deal with increasing the share of renewables in the national energy grid and energy efficiency. For instance, in the field of renewable energy, it can be observed that Romania's ambitions are falling (38% for 2020, compared to 30.07% for 2030). Overall, the claimants conclude that the Romanian government has taken meager measure, and is therefore failing to meet its legal obligations.