Anton Foley and others v Sweden (Aurora Case)
Jurisdiction: Nacka District Court (Nacka tingsrätt)
Side A: Antone Foley and others (600 youth plaintiffs)
Side B: Sweden
Core objectives: The adequacy of Sweden’s climate change mitigation policy, in possible violation of human rights protected by the ECHR.
On November 25, 2022, a group of over 600 young people born between 1996 and 2015 filed a class action lawsuit against the Swedish state, arguing that Sweden’s action on mitigating climate change is inadequate and thus in violation of their rights under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). The complaint was lodged after two letters were sent to the Swedish state, one in May 2022 (to which the sitting Minister for Climate and Environment replied) and one in November 2022 following a change in government in October 2022 (to which there was no reply), where the plaintiffs outlined their requests. Specifically, the plaintiffs argue that the risk of the negative impacts of climate change constitutes interferences with their rights to life, private and family life, and non-discrimination under articles 2, 8, and 14 of the ECHR, respectively, as well as the right to property under article 1, protocol 1 of the ECHR. These interferences are argued to constitute rights violations since Sweden is failing to do its fair share to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration in the atmosphere to keep warming below 1.5°C as compared to pre-industrial levels, by not undertaking immediate and adequate procedural and substantive measures to continuously reduce GHG emissions and enhance GHG sinks, thus failing to adequately protect the plaintiffs from adverse impacts of anthropogenic climate change. In particular, the plaintiffs argue that climate change impacts in the period leading up to 2100 will be serious, especially in relation to impacts on human health, and that they are expected to be particularly affected by these impacts because expect to be alive at that time, based on the average life span in Sweden. In terms of specific impacts, the plaintiffs cite longer and more intense heatwaves causing both mild and severe health effects, shorter and more temperate winters leading to the increased spread of diseases through ticks, and changes to precipitation patterns leading to health impacts stemming from flooding, among others.
The plaintiffs question both procedural and substantive aspects of Sweden’s mitigation policy. With respect to the former, the plaintiffs argue that the state has failed to adopt sufficient and adequate procedural measures by not investigating, in line with the best available science: (i) the extent of Sweden’s fair share to reduce emissions continuously, (ii) how the fair share is to be achieved in a manner that is economically and technically feasible, and (iii) how Sweden can contribute to reduce consumption-based GHG emissions abroad, GHG emissions caused by Swedish legal persons abroad, and GHG emissions from LULUCF, as well as protecting and restoring natural carbon sinks like forests, wetlands, and oceans. The emissions in question for points (i) and (ii) are those from industrial processes, product use, fossil fuel-based energy, agriculture, and waste (IPEJA emissions).
As regards their substantive claims, the plaintiffs argue that the state has failed to take sufficient and adequate measures to: (i) continuously implement Sweden’s fair share, based on the investigations mentioned above, (ii) reduce IPEJA emissions between 2019 and 2030 by at least 9.4 or 6.5 million tons CO2-eq annually, primarily national emissions insofar as possible, and to ensure safe atmospheric GHG concentrations after 2030 under any circumstances, (iii) reduce national IPEJA emissions between 2019 and 2030 by at least 3.1 or 2.2 million tons CO2-eq annually and to ensure safe atmospheric GHG concentrations after 2030 under any circumstances, (iv) secure that GHG emissions reductions within one category is not achieved through increasing emissions in another category under any circumstances, and (v) continuously compensate annual emissions that exceed the permissible emissions, by reducing the net emissions by an equivalent amount in the following period under any circumstances, starting in 2019.
Ultimately, based on these arguments, the plaintiffs ask the court to order the state to implement its fair share of GHG emissions reductions to keep global warming below 1.5°C, by adopting sufficient and adequate procedural and substantive measures to ensure that emissions are continuously reduced and that GHG are absorbed through natural carbon sinks, in order to limit the risk of negative impacts of climate change on them. The procedural and substantive measures requested mirror the complaints listed above.