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Climate Emergency: Law, Policy, and Adjudication in the EU

Speaker and panelists in front of a power presentation

The conference ‘Climate Emergency: Law, Policy, and Adjudication in the EU’ was held in Lund on 9-10 May 2023, organized co-jointly by the EU Forum of Judges for the Environment (EUFJE) and Lund University with the support of the Lund Centre for European Studies (CFE) and the Association of Foreign Affairs (UPF).

The main purpose of this conference was to better understand the legal implications of the climate emergency. As is well-known, in 2019, the European Parliament declared a global ‘climate and environmental emergency’. In the subsequent years, the EU has pledged to reduce 55% greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050, as laid out in the European Green Deal. Alongside legislative initiatives, climate litigation is ever-increasing across Europe, often led by civil society and NGOs, and employing a variety of legal arguments against both private and public actors to spur climate action. This shows a wide range of different actors – courts, policymakers, industrial sectors, and civil society – engaged with climate action in the face of climate emergency.

Particularly, EU’s climate ambition forms a natural part of Sweden’s climate package but, as for any Member State, this is translated into a particular, here Nordic, legal culture. Via the unique opportunity that Sweden hosts the EU presidency in 2023, this conference in Lund aimed to reflect on key questions surrounding climate emergency and climate litigation in Europe. What are the legal implications of climate emergency for EU law, policy and adjudication? What role do civil society and NGOs play in this regard? What is the legal impact on private as well as public actors?

To briefly summarize lessons learned from this conference, there are some take-home pointers including that what counts as an ‘emergency’ has multiple legal meanings and we should be careful with its use. Moreover, participants and panelists discussed the need for ‘transformation’ – not only in an economic but also societal and legal sense – to ensure climate neutrality and considered who are the relevant participants in bringing about this transformation. Here, special attention was paid to lawmakers and courts. Particularly, with regard to the latter, this conference also discussed at length its role as ‘dialogue-enabler’ between different courts (eg. ECtHR and CJEU but dialogue with national courts and also further afield), as well as with lawmaker and litigants.

It is also worth noting that this conference is a Lund University Europe Day (May 9) Event through the unique opportunity that Sweden is hosting the EU presidency. The conference is not the end of the journey but the beginning of a new chapter in the battle against climate issues. More importantly, this conference demonstrated a solid step that accelerates a renewed momentum for joint efforts from multidimensional actors in the EU – policymakers, courts, private sectors, and civil society – in the ambitious transition towards a climate-neutrality EU!

A full report and more photos from the conference can be downloaded here (PDF, 7,3 MB, open in a new window).

A pre-recorded video keynote speech from Mr. Diederik Samsom, Head of Cabinet of Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, especially sent to the conference can be watched here.