Czech Climate litigation
What is Czech climate litigation?
The fight against climate change has spread to courtrooms all around the world in recent years. To date, more than 600 climate-related lawsuits have been filed worldwide. Climate lawsuit is a way to legally force the government or private companies, banks, and funds to act responsibly on climate issues. The lawsuits are based on the premise that the state is obliged to defend the rights of its citizens and that a climate-irresponsible policy means gambling with the future of the population.
The Czech Climate Litigation is an action against the Czech state authorities responsible for reducing emissions and adapting measures to climate change, which has been filed with Czech courts. The lawsuit, which was prepared by the law firm Frank Bold Advokáti s.r.o., was filed by an association of Czech citizens, who feel threatened by the inaction of state authorities in preventing climate change, and five additional plaintiffs directly damaged by climate change. The aim of the lawsuit is a court ruling stating that the Czech state authorities do not sufficiently protect the rights of Czech citizens guaranteed by the Constitution and do not fulfil their international obligations in relation to climate change.
You can contribute to the success of the lawsuit and its goals either by your membership in the association or by financial contribution. We will use the donations to finance the legal process, promotion of the lawsuit, and for the day-to-day operations of the association.
We have already raised CZK 365,000 from individual donors. Thank you!
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).
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