CAN Europe and GLAN legally challenge European Commission to up EU climate ambition

On 23 August 2023, CAN Europe and the Global Legal Action Network submitted a request for internal review to the European Commission to revise its Implementing Decision 2023/1319. This Implementing Decision which sets national annual emission allowances based on the -55% EU 2030 climate target, infringes EU environmental law as the level of climate ambition therein is insufficient to protect fundamental human rights. The request underlines that the EU´s overall climate ambition remains alarmingly off-track with its fair share to the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement. It is also a call on EU decision-makers to accelerate climate action and go beyond the inadequate level of ambition of the Fit for 55 legislative package, thus enabling steep emission reductions in the short term and achieving at least -65% gross emission reductions by 2030.

Following the recent update of the Effort Sharing Regulation, the Implementing Decision 2023/1319 revises a 2020 act which determines annual emission allocations for each Member State corresponding to the maximum allowed greenhouse gas emissions in the Effort Sharing Regulation sectors, which include buildings, agriculture, waste, small industry, and transport and cover about 57% of the total EU‑27 greenhouse gas emissions. The recent revision aimed at aligning these allocations with the EU’s overall climate target of achieving -55% net emission cuts by 2030. However, this level of ambition remains insufficient in light of the EU’s obligations to deliver its fair share towards the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.

GLAN and CAN Europe argue that substantially higher levels of emission reductions by 2030, well beyond -55%, are needed in order for the EU to protect both people and the environment from the impacts of dangerous climate change. This responsibility stems from:

  • The obligations to protect human rights under the Charter of Fundamental Rights;
  • The EU treaties, and more specifically the obligations under Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU;
  • The obligations of the EU and its Member States under international law, in particular the Paris Agreement, the harm prevention principle and the precautionary principle.

This request was introduced under the internal review mechanism for EU administrative acts of the EU Aarhus Regulation. The Commission now has 16 weeks to adopt a review decision, a timeframe which could ultimately be extended to 22 weeks. The review decision from the Commission may be challenged before the Court of Justice of the EU.


Insufficient climate ambition. Links with the Portuguese Youth case

This initiative is closely linked with the arguments contained in the case of Duarte Agostinho and others vs 32 States before the European Court of Human Rights (the ‘Portuguese Youth’ case). This case is brought by six children and young adults from Portugal, who are arguing that the climate ambition of 32 European States is insufficient to protect their fundamental rights, including their right to life and their right to privacy, which covers their physical and mental wellbeing. 

Both the Portuguese Youth case and the new complaint submitted by GLAN and CAN Europe aim at ensuring that Europe does its fair share to keep global warming to 1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement. The applicants in the Portuguese Youth case are supported by GLAN, while CAN Europe and the EU Commission are also involved in this case as third party interveners. The purpose of a third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights is to provide the Court with information to assist it in reaching its decision. CAN Europe has provided information supporting the claims of the young applicants, while the EU Commission supported that EU climate policy is in compliance with the EU’s obligations under the Paris Agreement. 

A hearing in the Portuguese Youth case will take place in Strasbourg on 27 September 2023. 


Written by Romain Didi – Climate governance and human rights policy coordinator at CAN Europe