Families affected by the climate crisis file appeal after the European General Court dismisses their case

Climate action

Today, 10 families from Europe and outside, together with the Saami Youth Association from Sweden appealed to the European Court of Justice on the dismissal of the historic People’s Climate Case – the case challenging the EU’s 2030 climate target for its insufficiency to protect citizens and their fundamental rights. The appeal challenges the first instance court’s (European General Court) narrow interpretation of “direct and individual concern” which is a procedural reason to dismiss the case.

 The first instance court – European General Court – accepted that the families and Saami youth who filed the case are affected by climate change, however ordered its dismissal as the plaintiffs are not unique to be hit by the climate crisis and therefore cannot be protected by EU law as they do not meet the direct and individual concern criterion.

In their appeal to the European Court of Justice, the plaintiffs argue that each and every one of them are individually and directly affected by climate change in many different ways depending on where they live, their age, occupation and health situation.

Coordinating lawyer of the case, Roda Verheyen said: “The European General Court denied to provide access to justice for the families and young people hit by the devastating impacts of climate change, essentially because there are many other people hit by the climate crisis. This simply disrespects the very rationale of fundamental rights which is to grant protection to every single person. We hope that the European Court of Justice will adapt its interpretation of the EU treaties on access to justice in order to protect citizens from the climate crisis.”

Within two months after being informed about the appeal by the European Court of Justice, the European Parliament and the European Council should provide a written answer to the appeal. It would then be followed by a decision from the European Court of Justice to either allow further written exchange, to accept the appeal or to dismiss it. If the case is dismissed for a second time, this would prove that the European Courts are unable to provide legal protection for citizens in the context of climate change.

Giorgio Elter, Italian farmer and hotel owner from the Alpes said: “Heat waves followed by heavy rain, hail and storms are destroying our crops. Glacier melting is affecting all tourism activities and hostelry in my region. Today, I can hardly take care of my family and can’t guarantee a safe future for my daughters. We are not responsible for the climate breakdown but we are the ones who suffer. Just like any parent, I am trying to protect the future of my children.

In Italy, a group of citizens, organisations, researchers, social movements and independent media are also preparing a climate case to challenge the national government but one country’s action will not be enough. The EU Member States collectively defined a weak 2030 climate target and put our future in danger. Now, they need to be held accountable for their collective climate inaction.”

Last month, EU leaders failed to agree to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 and to commit to increasing the EU’s 2030 climate target. Regarding the EU’s disappointing performance to step up climate action, Maurice Feschet, French lavender farmer affected by consecutive droughts and heat waves said : “EU leaders are still turning a blind eye to the climate crisis while citizens are suffering more and more from extreme heat waves, droughts and forest fires. Courts who are responsible to provide legal protection for citizens when the decision makers let us down, should not underestimate human rights implications of the ongoing climate crisis. They should take our claim seriously and start fixing the failure of the EU governments. ”

The People’s Climate Case has been supported by a wide range of NGOs, climate scientists and citizens. More than 210,000 people from all over Europe have added their names to the support campaign held by wemove.eu. Plaintiff families were awarded with “ACTION” prizes and invited to speak in many different climate strikes led by youth to showcase the devastating impacts of climate change on the European farmers.

Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said: “ Europeans will keep standing in solidarity with these farmer families and the Saami youth in their search for justice. It is a shame for Europe that citizens need to go through tough court procedures to seek for better climate protection.

The EU must recognize that today’s climate crisis is the biggest threat to citizens’ human rights and act in great urgency to protect lives, livelihoods and human rights of millions of people. EU leaders should urgently commit to drastically increase its 2030 climate target and decide to go net zero by 2040.”

On 23 September, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres holds a Climate Summit in New York where all countries are expected to bring concrete action plans to ramp up climate action. To avoid the EU’s empty-handed participation in the Summit, EU leaders must come back to the negotiating table and agree on a much higher 2030 climate target.


Goksen Sahin, CAN Europe Communication Coordinator, goksen@caneurope.org, +32 468 45 39 20

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s leading NGO coalition fighting dangerous climate change. With over 160 member organisations from 35 European countries, representing over 1.700 NGOs and more than 40 million citizens, CAN Europe promotes sustainable climate, energy and development policies throughout Europe.


1) Summary of the Appeal can be found here:  https://peoplesclimatecase.caneurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/summary-of-the-appeal-3.pdf

Pleadings of the People’s Climate Case and the Court’s order can be found here: https://peoplesclimatecase.caneurope.org/documents/
2) Timeline of the People’s Climate Case:
24 May 2018: The People’s Climate Case is filed to the European General Court by 10 families and the Sami youth association
13 August 2018: the European General Court published the case in the Official Journal of the European Union and proceedings started officially.
24 September 2018: CAN Europe, Wemove.eu and the German Small Farmers Association (Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerlicher Landwirtschaft e.V.) applied to court to intervene in the People’s Climate Case.
15 October 2018: First written defence of the European Parliament and the Council are submitted to the Court.
10 December 2018: Plaintiffs answered the EU’s defence and the written procedure is closed.
15 May 2019: The European General Court shared its order on the inadmissibility of the case with the plaintiffs and the defence (the European Parliament and the Council) 
11 July 2019: Plaintiffs appeal to the European Court of Justice on the dismissal of the People’s Climate Case