Jennifer M. Klein, Esq.
Associate Director & Fellow
A group of Belgian citizens initiated a lawsuit in April seeking to compel their government to take aggressive action against climate change. The group, Klimaatzaak, filed a summons in the court of first instance in Brussels, alleging that the federal and regional governments in Belgium have unlawfully neglected to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals. According to the plaintiffs, this failure constitutes a violation of various laws, including international climate conventions, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Belgian Constitution. The case is at a very early stage – the parties have yet to submit written arguments – and it remains to be seen whether the court will be amenable to Klimaatzaak’s theory.
The Klimaatzaak lawsuit was inspired by a similar suit in the Netherlands. The summons in Urgenda v. The Kingdom of the Netherlands, also brought by an organized group of concerned citizens, asserts similar claims and theories. The Dutch case has already been briefed and argued before a district court in the Hague. A decision in that case is scheduled to be released on June 24th, 2015 and may provide a hint as to the eventual outcome of Klimaatzaak’s case. As Sabin Center Director Michael Gerrard has observed, a ruling against the government in the Dutch case “would be a very powerful signal that would probably then lead to similar litigation in many other countries.”