On April 21, 2021, a group of Czech citizens filed suit against the government of the Czech Republic for its inaction on climate change and the human rights harms this inaction is causing. Plaintiffs include climate action NGO Klimatická žaloba ČR, a municipality (Svatý Jan pod Skalou), and four individuals, and defendants named are the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Agriculture ,the Ministry of Transport, and the Government of the Czech Republic. Plaintiffs allege that the government, by failing to adequately address climate change, is violating Czech citizens' rights to life, health, environment, and others that are guaranteed by the Czech constitution, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights. Plaintiffs plan to present evidence that country has a limited carbon budget in order to meet its constitutional and Paris Agreement obligations, and that the government's Climate Protection Policy allows for emissions 2.5 times higher than the carbon budget allows. Plaintiffs seek a court order for the government to take necessary measures to maintain a carbon budget of 800 Mt CO2 from January 2021 until the end of the century, and to take necessary measures to adapt to climate change.
On June 15, 2022, the Prague Municipal Court upheld the lawsuit and ordered the state to urgently take the necessary measures to slow climate change. The Court ruled that the state’s failure to take sufficient GHG mitigation measures is unlawful and that the state should abstain from continuing to infringe the plaintiffs’ rights by such failure. The court derived the obligation to mitigate climate change from the Paris Agreement and the EU Climate Law (which sets the target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990), as the Czech Republic does not have a climate act yet. State authorities are obliged to have a plan of precise and complete measures to achieve this goal, which is not yet set in place. While the Court concluded that the goals of the Paris Agreement (of keeping the increase in global temperatures below 2oC) is not legally binding, the national contribution of the Czech Republic cannot be avoided. Avoiding these climate goals would threaten the plaintiff's constitutionally guaranteed rights. The government cannot absolve itself of its climate responsibility by noting its small contribution to climate change.
The defendants (Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Agriculture, and Ministry of Transport) will have to adopt additional measures to reach the 55 % reduction in GHG by 2030 as the measures set out in the Climate Protection Policy of the Czech Republic are not sufficient to achieve the emission reduction target set by the EU. In particular, the state will have to take necessary steps to reduce GHG in the fields of energy, transport, and forestry within six months. However, the adaptation claims made by the plaintiffs were dismissed as the state prepared a new adaptation plan and is actively implementing some measures.
The Ministry of the Environment appealed on points of law to the Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic. On February 20, 2023, the Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic overturned the decision of the Prague Municipal Court and referred the case back to the first instance court (the Prague Municipal Court). The main reason for the reversal of the first instance decision is the collective character of the EU’s obligation to reduce its GHG emissions by 55% by 2030 and the fact that the specific distribution of the obligations to Member States is currently still subject to legislative and political negotiations. The Supreme Administrative Court also stated that plaintiffs should further specify in which specific areas the defendants’ alleged passivity breached their obligations, which specifically interfere with the applicants’ rights.