News | 06 October 2020

Plaintiffs of the People's Climate Case urge European Parliament to vote on ambitious climate target

Peoples Climate Case - All participants

Dear Member of the European Parliament,

We are writing to you on behalf of all citizens impacted by climate change. We are farmers, shepherds, foresters, hotel and restaurant owners and the indigenous Sámi youth representatives, united in our vulnerability to climate change.

Fear and hope. These contradictory feelings are constantly present when thinking about the future, and gave us the strength to do something that has never been done before. In the aim to protect our life and future, we decided to fight for our fundamental rights.

I’m Sanna Vannar, and I’m an indigenous reindeer herder from Sápmi, on the Swedish side. The reindeer herding is at the center of our culture. My family and other Sámi reindeer herding communities are losing many reindeers because of the unpredictable climate changes, resulting in more and more wildfires, droughts, and rain-on-snow events in the Arctic circle. We, the Sámi people, rely on our traditions, indigenous knowledge and practices, which are now, all under the threat of the climate crisis. This is not an isolated event, the dramatic changes in the Arctic region will influence weather conditions all over Europe and elsewhere.

In Germany we, the Recktenwalds, have lived on the North Sea island of Langeoog for four generations. Our family has built a hotel and restaurant business from scratch. Our property and business are under risk from the rising sea level, storms, the erosion of the dunes, and the soon to be pollution of our drinking water with sea water. In Portugal, France and Italy, we, Alfredo Sendim, Ildebrando Conceição, Armando Carvalho and Joaquim Caixeiro, Maurice Feschet, Giorgio Elter and our families are farmers and beekeepers. We are continuously struggling with an increasingly irregular and unstable climate. Temperature increases and droughts make it very difficult to continue our ways of farming. 

In the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, we, the Vlad family risk losing our farm and livestock due to increasing temperatures, droughts and lack of water in our region. We have been moving the animals higher and higher up the mountains to get more humid vegetation, but can now go no higher. We have reached the peak.

In May 2018, together with our children and the Sámi Youth Association from Sweden, we took the EU to court for the inadequacy of the European Union’s 2030 climate target. Meanwhile, the European Commission has issued it’s impact assessment calling for at least 55% cut in emissions by 2030 (even if including removals, resulting in a lower overall cut in emissions), a step in the right direction, but far from enough if we are to be in line with the Paris Agreement and be climate neutral by 2050. The EU has a duty of care and protection towards its citizens and must protect their rights to life, health, occupation and property. While preparing our legal case, we worked with scientists who proved that the EU can do much more than its current and weak 40% emissions reduction target. Today, based on the most recent available science, the EU should achieve at least 65% greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2030.

In our case, we joined forces with two courageous plaintiff families from the Global South: the Guyo family from Northern Kenya and the Qaloibau family from Vanua Levu Island in Fiji. We came together in our search for climate justice to remind courts the EU’s policies have consequences not only for Europe but also for the Global South. 

For more than 2 years, we have been waiting to be heard by the EU courts on whether citizens hit by the climate crisis can challenge the EU for its weak climate target. While the legal process is ongoing, we want to remind you, our elected representatives, that you have a historical duty to step up climate ambition without needing a court order. 

On 6th October, as Members of the European Parliament, you have the opportunity to address both during your vote on the European Climate Law. We urge you to align yourselves with science and Jytte Guteland’s call for increasing ambition to 65% emission cuts by 2030, as well as to support access to justice for citizens. It is time for you to take a stand against climate change and be on the right side of history.

Yours sincerely,

Sanna Vannar, president of Sáminuorra, Sweden (on behalf of the Saami youth)
Maurice and Renaud Feschet, farmers, France
Roban Wako Guyo Guyo and Dima, cattle farmers, Kenya
Maike and Michael Recktenwald, hotel and restaurant owners, Germany
Vlad Petru, farmer and shepherd, Romania
Armando Carvalho, forest owner, Portugal
Alfredo Sendim, farmer, Portugal
Ildebrando Conceição, beekeeper, Portugal
Joaquim Caixeiro, farmer, Portugal
Giorgio Elter, farmer and hotel owner, Italy


About the People’s Climate Case

The People’s Climate Case is the litigation action initiated by 10 families from Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Kenya, Fiji, and the Saami Youth Association Sáminuorra. Their homes, livelihoods, traditional family occupation and culture are affected by climate change. They are taking the EU institutions to court to protect their fundamental rights through more ambitious climate action. The plaintiffs are accompanied by a broad range of NGOs - beyond them Germanwatch, CAN-Europe and Protect the Planet - scientists and citizen.

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