Climate lawsuits threat hanging over EU entities

Governments in Europe look likely to face additional lawsuits citing weak action on climate change, and big CO2 emitting companies are also likely to be hauled before the courts

Governments in Europe look likely to face additional lawsuits citing weak action on climate change, and big CO2 emitting companies are also likely to be hauled before the courts.

UN climate talks in Bonn have heard that recent or imminent cases in Ireland, Norway and Switzerland are based on constitutional law, citing harmful impacts of climate change on health and wellbeing.

These lawsuits will also cite the failure of business leaders and ministers to rein in emissions and will make reference to a lack of compliance with the 2015 Paris Agreement’s 2°C and 1.5°C temperature targets.  

“Governments urgently need to increase their action on climate change. If they don’t, they can count on being held accountable in courts around the world... [People] will turn to their courts in increasing numbers to demand what is just, a world free from climate chaos,” said Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel to the Amsterdam-based Urgenda Foundation.

Van Berkel made the comments on Wednesday at UN climate talks where historic, current and future emissions are being cited as grounds for legal action by environmental lawyers and campaigners.

Urgenda won a landmark victory in 2015 when a Dutch court ruled that the government’s 2020 target to cut GHG emissions 17% from 1990 levels had failed to uphold a constitutional “duty of care” towards Dutch citizens. The court ruled that ministers needed to deepen the cut to at least 25% and the government’s appeal to the ruling will be held in May 2018.

Last month, a group of Portuguese children raised the first round of funding to take to task “older generations” in government ministries for inadequate policies to protect their human rights.

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