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Climate Lawsuit


Where can I learn more about climate lawsuits?
  • Currently, 6 young Portuguese people are taking 33 European countries to the European Court of Human Rights for their inaction in climate policy. Read more HERE
  • Swiss senior citizens criticise the inadequate Swiss emissions reduction target because they are particularly affected by the increasing number of hot days. They took the case to the ECHR in the summer of 2020. Read more HERE
  • The NGO Urgenda complained that the Netherlands was not sufficiently protecting its citizens from the climate crisis. The ruling said the Netherlands would have to cut its emissions by at least 25 percent by 2020, instead of the targeted 17 percent. Read more HERE
  • A famous lawsuit is the one of the Peruvian Saúl Luciano Lliuya who accused the German coal company RWE. The Group is to finance a proportion of protective measures, the proportion for which RWE is to blame for climate change. The protection measures are intended to protect the city of Huaraz in the Andes from the nearby glacial lake. Its water level continues to rise due to the melting glacier and threatens to cause damage to the city and endanger human lives. Read more HERE

Database for all climate action actions contains more information on the above claims
--Datenbasis der Columbia Law School

How would a positive verdict affect other states?
  • In the event of a positive ruling, it would serve as a guideline for the courts of 46 other states that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (820 million people).
  • If the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) confirms that a duty of states, to protect the climate, can be derived from the right to life and the right to health, more climate protection measures can also be demanded in other countries regarding Article 2 and/or Article 8 ECHR.
  • If the ECHR upholds the complaint, this also means that there must be a right to an effective complaint for more climate protection . . .
  • If the ECHR also makes an explicit statement under Article 13 of the ECHR, then Switzerland or Germany, for example, must also create a right to an effective complaint. In the case of the Swiss climate seniors, a right of action based on fundamental rights was explicitly denied by the Swiss Supreme Court. In Germany, two lawsuits are still pending before the Federal Constitutional Court. However, the ECHR ruling could have a positive impact on these lawsuits.
How does the ECHR work?
  • If all the conditions for filing the application are met, the application will be accepted by the ECHR. Conditions for this include:
  1. The accused state must, like Austria, be a member of the Council of Europe (47 countries, 820 million people). All members have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
  2. The claim must violate at least one ECHR right, in our case Article 2 "the right to life" & Article 8 "the right to health", as well as Article 13 "the right to enforce Convention rights".
  3. The claimant must be a victim of the ECHR violation.
  4. The case must be post-date the ratification of the ECHR by the defendant country.
  5. The case must have passed through all instances in the home country.
  6. The case must be submitted to the ECHR no later than 6 months after the judgment of the highest national court.
  • Inadmissible appeals are dismissed by a single judge.
  • Depending on the importance of the case, a different number of judges deal with the case: Committee (3), Small Chamber (7), Grand Chamber (17).
  • The ruling of the ECHR is final. 47 judges are employed at the ECHR, one person per country.
  • The procedure before the ECHR is free of charge.
  • The Committee of Ministers of the Interior of the Council of Europe is responsible for implementation. The Member State concerned is bound by the judgements and obliged to implement them.
Has the ECHR ever spoken out about the climate crisis?

Yes, the ECHR recently allowed the lawsuit of 6 young Portuguese women who are suing 33 European countries for their inadequate climate policies. The states must now take a stand on this allegation. At the same time, the ECHR has announced that it will take an accelerated look at other climate change cases. More information can be found HERE and HERE, or in the other FAQs.

What can I do or how can I help?
  • Currently, we need financial support for our crowdfunding to be able to pay for attorneys, expert opinions and other campaign costs. If you are unable to donate, talk to your friends/relatives about how important it is to you that we in Austria get a complaint for insufficient climate protection.
  • The case also needs attention. This is not about a PR gag for the climate movements. It is about the simple question of what our human rights are worth to us in the greatest crisis of mankind.
  • So, spread the news and #FightForYourHumanRight! Every euro counts!
Has Austria ever been sued before the ECHR?

Yes, between 1959-2020, 279 out of 397 claims were found to be at least one violation of the European Convention on Human Rights
(link: text: HERE is the link to the ECHR statistics.

What should have been done in Austria to prevent you from going to the ECHR?
  • Simply put: the government should finally take a path that complies with the Paris climate targets.
  • Furthermore, Austrian legislation would have to provide for an effective right of appeal in climate matters.
Ist Österreich schon einmal vor dem EGMR verklagt worden?

Ja, zwischen 1959-2020 wurden in 279 von 397 Klagen mindestens eine Verletzung der Europäischen Menschenrechtskonvention festgestellt
HIER der Link zur EGMR Statistik.

What is the connection between the climate lawsuit before the ECHR and the climate lawsuit before the Constitutional Court last year?
  • In Austria, for example, you cannot go to the Constitutional Court (VfGH) "because the state does nothing" - in other countries you can. In short, there is no right of appeal in Austria against legislative inaction on climate protection. In Austria, only existing laws or ordinances that violate a person's rights can be challenged in this context. The VfGH could then annul them.
  • This was also the idea behind the first climate lawsuit in Austria ( Two laws were reviewed by the Constitutional Court: the kerosene tax exemption and the VAT exemption for international flights. Rail passengers are disadvantaged because there are no such benefits. 8063 Austrians complained that the state was not fulfilling its duty to protect - by promoting actions that are harmful to the climate - and that it should protect people from the climate crisis. On the other hand, it was complained that the laws are contrary to equality because two means of transport are treated differently without showing a good reason.
    The Constitutional Court dismissed this complaint on formal grounds since rail passengers are not directly affected by the tax advantages in air travel. But even the repeal of these individual climate-damaging laws would not have solved the deficit that there is no legal protection against a lack of climate protection.