In recent years, environmental organizations and groups of citizens (some of them very young) around the world have taken to court states and other institutions to force them to adopt more ambitious and demanding policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the cause of climate change. Now there is one in Italy too: on 5 June 24 associations and 179 people (17 of whom are minors) filed a lawsuit against the Italian state, represented by the presidency of the Council of Ministers, in the civil court of Rome.
The main requests made by the applicants to the court are to declare the state “responsible for the dangerous situation resulting from its inaction in combating the climate emergency” and order it to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 92 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030. The commitment for 2030 made by the European Union as a whole is a 55 percent reduction compared to 1990 levels, the year in which European emissions began to decrease due to the introduction of some first environmental policies and the collapse of the economies of the former communist bloc, which polluted a lot. The peak of Italian emissions, on the other hand, was in 2005 and those of 2018 were 17 percent lower than those of 1990.
The 92 percent reduction proposed by the plaintiffs is based on an analysis of climate policies made by the independent organizations Climate Analytics and the New Climate Institute. With their Climate Action Tracker, they estimate the reduction in emissions that each country should aim for to keep the rise in global average temperatures from pre-industrial levels below 1.5 ° C (as required by the Paris climate agreement of 2015) taking into account its richness, that is, with a view to a “fair” solution for all the countries of the world.
– Read also: The young people who bring states to court for climate change
The lawsuit is part of a communication campaign called The Last Judgment and organized by the environmental association A Sud. The applicants – including the well-known meteorologist Luca Mercalli – are assisted by a group of lawyers expert in environmental law. : Luca Saltalamacchia, Raffaele Cesari and Michele Carducci, who teaches comparative and climatic constitutional law at the University of Salento.
In the world, there are more than a thousand legal cases related to climate change. What has probably been most successful so far has been in Germany: at the end of April, the country’s Constitutional Court ordered the government to change its climate law by agreeing with a group of people that the law violated their freedom, because it is insufficiently ambitious and rigid. The German case took three years to reach the highest level of judgment: for the Italian one, if it were to proceed well, it will certainly take more due to the longer times of Italian justice and it is likely that the procedure will not have great consequences in practical terms, if only because it will end too late to change the 2030 emissions reduction targets. However, the cause could influence policy.
Among the applicants there are not the best known environmental organizations in Italy, namely Legambiente and Greenpeace, noted an article by Tomorrow: Greenpeace Italy director Giuseppe Onufrio told the newspaper that “in Italy politics depends on some big companies” suggesting that lawsuits against big companies rather than against the state could be more effective. Greenpeace itself participated in a lawsuit of this kind in the Netherlands, against the large oil company Royal Dutch Shell: on May 26 a court in The Hague ruled that by 2030 it will have to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent compared to 2019 levels, a much higher reduction than the company promised.