Lawyers acting on behalf of a group including a French lavender farmer and members of the indigenous Sami community in Sweden have taken legal action against EU institutions for failing to adequately respond to climate change. In particular, claimants assert that EU’s 2030 Framework for climate and energy sets inadequate emissions targets and allows overly high greenhouse gas emissions.
The 2030 Framework sets EU-wide targets and policy objectives for the period between 2020 and 2030, particularly, at least 40% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels. In order to meet this target, the EU has adopted the Effort Sharing Regulation, the revised EU Emission Trading System Directive and the LULUCF Regulation (on the integration of land use, land use change and forestry). However, claimants argue that the 2030 targets are not ambitious enough and amount to violation of fundamental rights to life and health. It is worth mentioning that claimants do not seek any damages, they ask the court to declare respective EU legislation (the 2030 Framework, the Effort Sharing Regulation the LULUCF Regulation) null and void.
According to the Guardian, expert evidence is provided by scientists from the think tank Climate Analytics and all costs related to the legal proceedings are to be borne by the German non-governmental organization Protect the Planet. Since the challenged legislative acts have been adopted by EU institutions, the legal action has its basis in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). Pursuant to Article 267 of the TFEU, any natural or legal person may institute proceedings against an act addressed to that person or which is of direct and individual concern to them, and against a regulatory act which is of direct concern to them and does not entail implementing measures.
The legal action arose out of negative impacts of climate change on claimant’s daily life. For instance, Maurice Feschet, a lavender farmer (France), lost 44% of his harvest in six years due to climate change; Alfredo Sendim, an organic farmer in central Portugal, has been exposed to droughts making his business increasingly unprofitable; indigenous Sami community in Sweden has faced rising temperatures that threaten the size of herds.
EU citizen’s fundamental rights to life and health are under threat of climate change. Thus, EU citizens are putting their trust in the EU courts and legal system, according to Roda Verheyen, the lawyer acting on behalf of the families. Wendel Trio, director of the Climate Action Network in Europe, said: “Yet, it is clear that the existing EU 2030 climate target is not enough to respect the commitments taken in the Paris agreement and should be increased. The EU needs under the agreement to confirm its target by 2020. This legal action initiated by normal families impacted by climate change is underlining the urgency and the necessity to increase it.”