Action brought on 23 May 2018 – Carvalho and Others v Parliament and Council

(Case T-330/18)

Language of the case: English

Parties

Applicants: Armando Carvalho (Santa Comba Dão, Portugal), and 36 others (represented by: G. Winter, professsor, R. Verheyen, lawyer, and H. Leith, Barrister)

Defendants: Council of the European Union, European Parliament

Form of order sought

declare the ‘GHG Emissions Acts’1 unlawful insofar as they allow the emission between 2021 and 2030 of a quantity of greenhouse gases corresponding to 80 % of the 1990 emissions in 2021 and decreasing to 60 % of the 1990 emissions in 2030;

annul the GHG Emissions Acts insofar as they set targets to reduce GHG emissions by 2030 by 40 % of 1990 levels, and in particular, Article 9, paragraph 2, of Directive 2003/87/EC, as last amended by Directive 2018/410, Article 4(2) of and Annex I to Regulation 2018/842, and Article 4 of Regulation 2018/841;

order the defendants to adopt measures under the GHG Emissions Acts requiring a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by 50 %-60 % of 1990 levels, or such higher level of reduction as the Court thinks fit;

in the alternative, if the Court is not minded to grant an injunction and its decision to annul the reduction targets comes too late to allow for a modification of the relevant provisions before 2021, the applicants claim that the Court should order that the contested provisions of the GHG Emissions Acts shall remain in force until a defined date, by which time they must be modified in accordance with the higher ranking legal requirements;

order the defendants to bear the costs of the proceedings.

Pleas in law and main arguments

In support of the action, the applicants rely on ten pleas in law.

First plea in law, relating to their claim for annulment, alleging that the Union is obliged by rules of higher ranking law to avoid harm caused by climate change, under the customary international law duty prohibiting states from causing harm and to prevent damage under Article 191 TFEU. The Union is likewise obliged to prevent infringements of fundamental rights protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU caused by climate change. These rights include the right to life and physical integrity, the right to pursue an occupation, the right to property, the rights of children and the right to equal treatment.

Second plea in law, relating to their claim for annulment, alleging that, given the causal connection between the emission of greenhouse gases and dangerous climate change, the Union is responsible for taking measures to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases from within the Union to avoid this harm and to prevent infringements of fundamental rights.

Third plea in law, relating to their claim for annulment, alleging that climate change is already causing harm and infringements of fundamental human rights and will continue to do so. Any further emission of greenhouse gases contributing to these effects will therefore be unlawful unless that emission can be justified on objective grounds, and where the Union has sought to make reductions to the extent of its technical and economic capability.

Fourth plea in law, relating to their claim for annulment, alleging that no such justification is available to the Union in adopting the targets set by the GHG Emissions Acts for the following reasons:

The targets authorise emissions in quantities that significantly exceed the EU’s equitable share of the budget of emissions implied by the objective set by the Paris Agreement of a maximum increase in global average temperature of 1.5°C or well below 2°C;

The targets were set without the defendants examining the extent of the technical and economic capability of the Union to make reductions. The targets chosen were rather selected as the most cost-effective means of meeting a prior long-term emissions target, which has since been superseded by the Paris Agreement;

The evidence available to the defendants shows that the Union did in fact have the capability to pursue measures providing for reductions in greenhouse gases of at least 50 %-60 % below 1990 levels by 2030.

Fifth plea in law, relating to their claim for injunctive relief, again alleging that the Union is obliged by rules of higher ranking law to avoid harm caused by climate change, under the customary international law duty prohibiting states from causing harm and to prevent damage under Article 191 TFEU. It is also obliged to avoid and prevent infringements of fundamental rights arising from climate change under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

Sixth plea in law, relating to their claim for injunctive relief, alleging that the Union has been, by virtue of its responsibility for the emission of greenhouse gases, in breach of these duties at earlier times:

It was in breach of the duty to avoid inflicting harm since 1992, when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted and knowledge of climate change became general;

The Union’s breach of duty was compounded in 2009, when both Article 191 TFEU and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU were in force;

At these points in time, the continued emission of greenhouse gases would be prohibited unless that conduct was objectively justified. The Union has not and cannot contend that the level of emissions that it continued to permit throughout this period were consistent with its technical and economic capacity to reduce emissions.

Seventh plea in law, relating to their claim for injunctive relief, alleging that the Union continues to be in breach of its obligations now, in adopting the emissions reductions targets in the GHG Emissions Acts. As set out in the pleas in law relating to their action for annulment, the GHG Emissions Acts fail to reduce emissions, and allow the continued release of emissions, at levels that are unlawful and cannot be justified.

Eighth plea in law, relating to their claim for injunctive relief, alleging that the Union’s breach of obligations is a sufficiently serious breach of a rule of law conferring rights on individuals. The Union has no discretion to decline to consider or adopt measures within its technical and economic capability for the reduction of emissions.

Ninth plea in law, relating to their claim for injunctive relief, alleging that the breaches of duty have caused dangerous climate change which has caused material damage to certain of the applicants and will cause further and additional types of damage to the applicants in the future.

Tenth plea in law, relating to their claim for injunctive relief, alleging that the Union is obliged to ensure its conduct conforms to its legal obligation to make emissions reductions commensurate with its technical and economic capability, which the evidence shows to be a reduction of at least 50 %-60 % by 2030 of 1990 level emissions. The applicants seek an injunction from the Court to this effect.

____________

1 Directive (EU) 2018/410 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 March 2018 amending Directive 2003/87/EC to enhance cost-effective emission reductions and low-carbon investments, and Decision (EU) 2015/1814 (OJ 2018 L 76, p. 3); Regulation (EU) 2018/842 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 on binding annual greenhouse gas emission reductions by Member States from 2021 to 2030 contributing to climate action to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement and amending Regulation (EU) No 525/2013 (OJ 2018 L 156, p. 26); and Regulation (EU) 2018/841 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 on the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry in the 2030 climate and energy framework, and amending Regulation (EU) No 525/2013 and Decision No 529/2013/EU (OJ 2018 L 156, p. 1). (In their application, the applicants refer to Regulations 2018/842 and 2018/841 in the versions adopted by the Council on 14 May 2018, before signature and publication in the Official Journal.)