PARIS: The European Court of Justice has thrown out a landmark case brought by 10 families who sued the European Union over the threats climate change poses to their homes and livelihoods, lawyers said Wednesday.
The team behind the case said the bloc’s top court earlier this month dismissed it on procedural grounds, arguing that individuals do not have the right to challenge the bloc’s environmental plans.
The ruling could have a major impact on future climate litigation, experts said.
Lawyers for the “People’s Climate Case” said they would appeal.
Families from across Europe, Kenya and Fiji in May last year filed suit against the European Union, claiming it must do more to limit climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions and the droughts, floods and sea level rises it brings.
The plaintiffs were “already being impacted by climate change, already incurring damage,” their lawyer Roda Verheyen told AFP at the time.
They include a Portuguese forester who had all his trees destroyed by wildfires in 2017 and a family from the Italian Alps which has seen the tourists their livelihoods depend on dwindle due to warmer winters.
Another complainant, Sanna Vannar, is a 23-year-old reindeer herder from Sweden’s indigenous Sami group.
“Since we launched the case, impacts of climate change got worse and worse,” she said Wednesday.
“This is not just a case. It is about protecting our rights and future.”
In their ruling on the ECJ’s website, the judges acknowledged that “every individual is likely to be affected one way or another by climate change”.
But it decided that this did not provide grounds for suing the EU, which has already committed to reduce emissions.
“The case is not dismissed on the merits,” said Verheyen in reaction to the ruling.
“On the contrary, the Court accepts that climate change is impacting everybody but refrains to engage with the facts of climate change and its human rights impacts.”