ClientEarth v. Belgian National Bank
Jurisdiction: Court of First Instance
Side A: ClientEarth (Ngo)
Side B: Belgian National Bank (Government)
Core objectives: Whether the Belgian National Bank's purchasing of bonds from fossil fuel companies violated EU law.
SummaryOn April 13, 2021, ClientEarth filed suit against the Belgian National Bank for failing to meet environmental, climate, and human rights requirements when purchasing bonds from fossil fuel and other greenhouse-gas intensive companies. The Belgian National Bank has participated in the European Central Bank's Corporate Sector Purchase Program (CSPP), in which six national central banks purchase bonds from eligible companies to improve financing conditions by lowering debt costs. ClientEarth alleges that over half of bonds purchased under the CSPP were issued by greenhouse-gas intensive sectors and that the program, therefore, exacerbates the climate crisis. ClientEarth alleges that the Belgian National Bank's participation in the CSPP, by not taking into account climate, environment, and human rights impacts, violated Article 11 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and Article 37 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (both concern the obligation to integrate environmental protection into EU policies). As part of its case, ClientEarth sought a preliminary reference to the European Court of Justice to determine whether the decision to establish the CSPP was lawful; it argues that it was not because of the failure to take into account climate considerations in designing the CSPP as required by EU law, because the CSPP is itself inconsistent with EU climate policy, and become it undermines the European Union's emissions reduction targets.
In December 2021, the Brussels Tribunal of First Instance rejected ClientEarth's application on procedural grounds. ClientEarth announced in early 2022 that it appealed the judgment. The appeal procedure is now pending before the Brussels Court of Appeal.