People’s Climate Case: EU insists to prevent access to justice for families hit by the climate crisis

Climate action

On 3 December, the European Parliament and the Council have submitted their responses on the appeal of the legal action challenging the EU’s 2030 climate target. Despite the political momentum in the EU to increase the 2030 climate target, both institutions argue that the families and the Sami youth who are affected by the climate crisis shouldn’t be heard in European courts. Now, plaintiffs will write the Court to request permission to answer the EU Institutions.

 Photo story ‘Faces of the Climate Fight” portraying climate activists here.

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The European Parliament who declared climate emergency only last week makes an unexpected statement in its written response and says that “whilst the Charter of fundamental rights reaffirmed the fundamental rights on which an individual may rely on, that does not make the rights “individualised” or “personal”” and thus the fundamental rights of plaintiffs should not be debated at court.

Gerd Winter, lawyer of the case said: “The EU keeps defending a paradox that the more serious damage is resulted by the EU’s laws and thus the more persons are harmed, the less their rights should be an issue for direct action at European courts. ”

Besides, the European Parliament and the Council argue that plaintiffs should try recourse through national courts. The families and Sami youth however explained in their application that this means sending them on a long detour, and an unsuccessful one because the national court would have no reason to involve the EU court. Rather, they would need to bring actions at 28 Member State Courts in order to have the entire emission quantity of the EU reduced. The plaintiffs claim this would be an unacceptable barrier to their right to legal protection.

Roda Verheyen, coordinating lawyer of the case said: “EU leaders made numerous declarations to recognise the magnitude of the climate crisis and the importance of stepping up climate action. Today, it is simply unacceptable that instead of providing legal protection, these institutions try to push citizens out of the EU jurisdiction.”

In the People’s Climate Case, families and the Sami youth argue that the EU’s current targets are too weak to prevent dangerous climate change and protect their human rights, mainly their right to live, health, occupation and property. Today, the European Parliament calls to increase of the EU’s 2030 climate target from 40% to 55%. An increasing number of Member States already support the increase of the 2030 climate target to -55% and have urged the new Commissioner Timmermans to do so in a joint letter.

In support of the People’s Climate Case, Wendel Trio, Director of CAN Europe said: “ It is time for EU decision makers to understand that climate action is also about people’s lives and fundamental rights. For these families and the Sami youth, climate change is an everyday struggle. These people who put their trust in the EU to protect their future deserve to be heard. The EU shouldn’t need a court order to substantially and urgently increase its 2030 climate target to protect its citizens and their fundamental rights.”

CAN Europe calls for an increase of the EU’s 2030 domestic greenhouse emission reduction target from at least 40% to at least 65% compared to 1990 emissions. This should happen in the first half of 2020 so that the EU can play a leadership role in increasing global climate ambition before COP26 in November 2020.


Goksen Sahin, CAN Europe Communication Coordinator,, +32 468 45 39 20


Legal summary of the People’s Climate Case can be found here

All publicly available legal documents can be found here


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