Czech Climate litigation
What is the Czech climate litigation?
The association Czech Climate Litigation brings together 285 Czech residents who are concerned about the state’s inaction on climate protection. Our ranks include people from all corners of the Czech Republic and from different backgrounds, such as foresters, farmers, doctors, teachers and others who feel the effects of climate change in their work and leisure time.
In cooperation with legal firm Frank Bold Advokáti and other plaintiffs directly affected by climate change, we have prepared and filed a lawsuit against the responsible ministries. According to our lawsuit and the expert evaluations we commissioned, the ministries are not taking sufficient measures to mitigate (reduce emissions) and adapt to climate change, thereby violating our human rights and international agreements. The goal of the lawsuit is to force the responsible actors to take more effective measures against climate change, no damages are sought. The lawsuit is now in the court process.
You can contribute to the success of the lawsuit and its goals by making a financial contribution. Donations will be used to cover the costs of the lawsuit and the day-to-day operations of the association.
Although the government is providing some action plans, legislative proposals, subsidies, etc., everything is desperately insufficient and greenhouse gas emissions in Czech republic have even risen in recent years. The fight against climate change is not like the fight against other negative phenomena – poverty, crime, corruption, etc. If, according to the IPCC international expert panel, we do not take drastic measures in the next 10 years, there will be no going back. The climate litigation calls for the measures taken by the Czech Republic to be brought into compliance with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. In practice, this means substantially increasing ambitions for reducing greenhouse gases (here and now, not making vague plans for 2050) and at the same time starting to really prepare for the negative effects of climate change at all levels using nature-friendly practices (even though large farming or construction corporations will be against this).
In general, the lawsuit claims that our rights have been violated (fundamental human rights and other subjective rights) by inaction or even illegal interference by the state authorities. In addition the lawsuit claims that the Czech government breaks several international agreement by its inaction. The defendants are the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Transport and the Czech Government. The complete text of the lawsuit (in Czech) is available here.
The lawsuit is mainly financed by members of the association and individual donors. We have also received a financial grant from the Center for Climate Integrity, which will help us cover the cost of the lawsuit. The income and expenses of the association are public and available for viewing on the transparent account of the association.
If we win, the court can order the government to:
- Refrain from actions which would obviously jeopardize the fulfillment of the Czech Republic’s commitments in protection against climate change (e.g. by granting emission exemptions to the largest CO2 producers),
- Update the Climate protection policy and other government plans into compliance with Czech international commitments,
- Update its Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement in a way that avoids dangerous climate change,
- Align its climate protection instruments (e.g. grant programs) with its policy documents and to strengthen climate adaptation measures,
- Compensate victims of climate change (small farmers, owners of forests, etc.) and assist them in implementing necessary measures.
If successful, the lawsuit will provide a strong signal to government agencies to be more consistent in protecting Czech citizens from climate change, and an important precedent for similar cases in our country and abroad. The Czech Climate Litigation association will then oversee government compliance with the obligations imposed by the court.
In case the lawsuit will be dismissed at the Municipal Court in Prague, we will turn to the Supreme Administrative Court and afterwards also possibly to the Constitutional Court. However, the Czech legal system provides relatively limited means of protecting our rights related to the climate crisis. Even if we use all available legal means with the best available expertise, it is still possible that the case will be dismissed. That however does not indicate that the case is not legitimate; there is no doubt about its legitimacy. Dismissal of the lawsuit would only indicate that we have failed to enforce our rights and legitimate claims through the courts. Nevertheless, the filing of the lawsuit itself can yield some results:
- A negative judgment may still include a partial acknowledgment of our claims,
- We will raise awareness about the climate crisis and the government’s responsibility to combat its causes and manifestations among the general public.
- Even in the event the case is dismissed, the government becomes aware of its obligations and also of the fact, that there is a substantial group of people who are determined to assert their rights through the courts.
- Regardless of the outcome, civil society is mobilized in the preparation of the lawsuit, with valuable friendships and alliances being formed between people who feel responsible for our common future.
Yes, the basic function of the court system is to protect the rights of citizens. If someone violates or threatens our rights, the court can order them to stop, whether it is the Government itself or one of its ministers. And because the state has not only the obligation not to harm citizens and nature, but also to actively protect them under international and constitutional law, the court can order the state to fulfil its legal obligations within a certain period. However the court cannot decide on policy measures themselves or order the state to take a specific measure (e.g. to provide a specific amount of subsidy for specific persons).
The climate lawsuit was drafted by law firm Frank Bold Advokáti and filed in court in April 2021. The lawsuit accused the Czech Government and relevant ministries for insufficient mitigation (emission reduction) and adaptation to climate change and demanded additional measures. After 15 months of legal proceedings, the Municipal Court in Prague issued a judgment in June 2022, which agreed with our lawsuit regarding mitigation measures and ordered the ministries to adopt a more ambitious climate target of 55% reduction by 2030 (which is based on an EU regulation). In the case of adaptation, the court then ruled that there was no breach of the law, while also acquitting the Government.
The ministries then appealed with the Supreme Administrative Court of Czechia. However, at the same time, they refused to react to the judgment and took no additional measures on climate mitigation, even though the judgment was formally in force (in the Czech administrative justice system, the appeal does not postpone the effect of the judgment), thus violating the Czech legal system. Unfortunately, there is no protection against the ministries ignoring an administrative judgment in the Czech legal system.
In February 2023, the Supreme Administrative Court overturned the judgment of the Municipal Court in Prague and returned the lawsuit to it for further consideration. The Supreme Administrative Court found that the Municipal Court did not sufficiently justify why it had ordered the target of 55% by 2030 (although the expert evaluations we provided show that Czech emission targets should be even higher to effectively mitigate climate change). The Municipal Court in Prague subsequently issued a new verdict in October 2023, in which it sided with the arguments of the Supreme Administrative Court and completely dismissed our lawsuit.
We will file an appeal against the new verdict of the Municipal Court in Prague, and the proceedings will once again be transferred to the Supreme Administrative Court. Unless there are changes in external circumstances (such as a relevant judgment from the European Court of Human Rights), the Supreme Administrative Court is likely to confirm the dismissal of our lawsuit. After that, we will turn to the Czech Constitutional Court, where we will argue that the inactivity of ministries constitutes an infringement on the fundamental human rights of the inhabitants of the Czech Republic.
CLIMATE LITIGATION timeline
The following documents are available in English:
- Expert evaluation: Climate Impact in the Czech Republic
- Expert evaluation: Quantifying the Implications of the Paris Agreement for the Czech Republic
- Judgement of the Municipal Court in Prague (which has since been overturned)