People’s Climate Case: The EU must honor the call of its citizens and stand with them, instead of hiding behind Court procedures and formalities

Climate action

As part of the proceeding of the People’s Climate Case – the case challenging the EU’s 2030 climate target for its insufficiency to protect the citizens and their fundamental rights-, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU have submitted their first defence to court. The EU Institutions ask the European General Court to declare the case inadmissible. Now, the European General Court is expected to start a preliminary procedure to decide if the plaintiffs of the People’s Climate Case could have a standing in the court and could be allowed to be heard about their claims.

 The start of an admissibility procedure would essentially pause the proceeding on the substance of the plaintiff’s claim which focuses on the insufficiency of the EU’s target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 % from 1990 levels by 2030. The families think that they already suffer from their consequences of climate change today and no time should be lost by hiding behind Court procedures.

Regarding the EU’s defence, Armando Carvalho, the Portuguese plaintiff the People’s Climate Case who lost his forested land during the wildfires in 2017, said: “I have already lost my forested land in a wildfire that is associated to the impacts of climate change by the scientists and the Portuguese authorities. The more the EU decision makers delay concrete actions; the more severe consequences of climate change will hit the Europeans. For me, this is not only a case of 10 families and the Saami youth. This is about our collective future.”

On 25 October, the European Parliament called for increasing the EU’s 2030 climate target from 40% to 55%. Yesterday, the European Commission recognised that the EU’s 2030 policies are not consistent with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. These acknowledgements of the low 2030 target support the claim of the plaintiffs and proves that the families are right in asking for higher climate targets. The EU Institutions, as the representatives of Europeans and their governments, should therefore stop resisting the people’s demand in court and stand together with them, instead of hiding behind procedural arguments.

Maike Recktenwald, the German plaintiff impacted by the sea level rise in a small island on the North Sea said: “ By launching this case, we put our trust in the EU legal system to hear us and protect us from the worsening impacts of climate change. Maybe we are not the ones who are making legislation but we are the ones who are impacted by these legislations that are allowing too many emissions. As the EU lawmakers have already accepted that the EU should increase its 2030 target to a 1.5°C compatible pathway, I think it’s time to find ways on how the EU can protect the citizens and their fundamental rights.”

In legal terms, this would mean that the EU institutions would stop resisting the people’s demands for climate action and agree to abide with a potential Court’s decision on the need to substantially increase its 2030 target.

The coordinating lawyer of the plaintiffs, Dr. Roda Verheyen said: “ The acknowledgement from the EU Institutions on the need to increase the EU’s 2030 climate target, clearly shows us that the existing climate target of 40% emission cuts by 2030 is not in line with science. It shows that the claim is actually warranted:It is clear us that the EU can do more, if there is a political will. In our written answer, we will ask the Court to not have a separate procedure on the admissibility and instead listen the plaintiffs about the issue at hand. We don’t have any time to waste. This is also valid for the EU Institutions: they should hear the people impacted by climate change and act in line with the urgency of the situation, rather than trying to restrict access to justice.”

Wendel Trio, Director of CAN Europe said: “The new report on warming of 1.5°C by the UN science panel, the (IPCC) shows that the impacts the plaintiffs of the People’s Climate Case are experiencing already, will only get worse, if we don’t take bold actions today. The EU ministers attending the COP24 climate summit in Katowice must act upon the warnings of the IPCC and commit to substantially increase the EU’s 2030 target. COP24 gives the EU Member States a chance to show that they are serious about achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement. “

Notes to the Editor:

Background information about the legal action:
The plaintiffs of the People’s Climate Case challenge the EU’s climate target for 2030 at the European General Court. They claim that the EU’s 2030 target is inadequate with respect to the real need to prevent dangerous climate change and not enough to protect the citizens and their fundamental rights of life, health, occupation and property.

The application of the People’s Climate Case has 2 parts: nullification and a claim for an injunction based on non- non-contractual liability.

The nullification action is challenging three EU legal acts:
– the Directive on emissions from large power generation installations (the Emissions Trading
System Regulation – ETS)
– the Regulation on emissions from industry, transport, buildings, agriculture etc. (the Effort
Sharing Regulation or Climate Action Regulation implementing the Paris Agreement” (CAR)
– the Regulation on emissions from and removals by land use, land use change and forestry
(the LULUCF Regulation)

The application asks the Court to declare the three Acts null and void insofar as they allow for too many emissions by 2030, since they violate the plaintiff’s rights and are not in line with higher ranking law. In order not to create a vacuum the Court is to order that the three Acts shall be kept in force until a stronger version of them has been enacted. This part of the action is based procedurally on Art 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).

The application also argues non- contractual liability. The claim underlines that since damage to property and income, as well as health are already occurring due to climate change, the EU must prevent greenhouse gas emissions as much as it can in order to prevent additional damage to be caused. This part of the action is based on Art. 340 of the TFEU.

– The pleading of the plaintiffs has submitted to the Court on 24 May 2018.
– The European General Court has published the case in the Official Journal of the European Union on 13 August 2018 and the proceeding of the case has officially started.
– CAN Europe, and the German Small Farmers Association (Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerlicher Landwirtschaft e.V.) has applied to the European General Court to intervene in the People’s Climate Case on 24 September.
– The first written defence from the European Parliament and the Council has been submitted to the Court during the week of 15 October.
– After the written answer of the plaintiffs to the European Parliament and the Council, the European General Court will decide on the admissibility of the case. This might mean that the Court dismisses the case or defines a written/ oral procedure to define the admissibility of the case.


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



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