In 2022, we contributed to shaping EU’s green agenda
A review of some of our achievements in the EU by ClientEarth Head of Brussels office Anaïs Berthier.
This is the time of the year to take stock of 2022 – a difficult year marked by the worsening of the climate crisis, the Russian war against Ukraine, its instrumentalisation to weaken the European Green Deal and the following energy crisis, which are undermining the stability of the continent.
Looking back at the work done by the team in our Brussels office, we can proudly say that we’ve had quite a few achievements that will ensure that the EU delivers at least part of its stated objectives and secure a decent level of protection of our environment. Here are some of them:
Following years of campaigning with our partner NGOs…
- We’ve secured a strong law that will require companies to conduct due diligence to ensure they only import or export products that are deforestation-free and produced legally across the world. The law will also provide for a judicial review mechanism to scrutinise proper enforcement of the rules. Even if far from perfect, it is a precedent to celebrate in terms of integrating increased access to justice rights into sectoral legislation.
- We’ve pushed more than half of EU countries to leave the controversial Energy Charter Treaty – an outdated treaty allowing investors to sue States for their climate policies – that is clearly not in line with the EU policies and objectives on climate and investment protection. As a result, the Commission could decide on a coordinated withdrawal from the Treaty to better navigate the energy transition and remove obstacles to urgently needed climate action.
We’ve also kept up the pressure on EU institutions and national authorities through our litigation work
- The European Court of Justice, in a case in which we intervened in support of ECHA and the Netherlands, confirmed that a group of new generation ‘forever chemicals’ used in the manufacture of non-stick products are rightly labelled in the EU as being of ‘very high concern’ – rejecting the arguments of the chemicals company Chemours.
- Thanks to our hard won right to access EU courts under the Aarhus Regulation, we’ve launched a series of challenges including against the labelling of gas as a sustainable investment in the EU taxonomy and against the Council’s decision to set unsustainable fishing limits.
- We’ve taken legal action in several EU countries to tighten air quality laws, so that they integrate the latest science and to push for our fundamental right to breathe clean and healthy air to be recognised.
- In a legal first, an Irish court asked the Court of Justice of the EU to rule whether ministers set unsustainable fishing limits. Our first preliminary ruling on the validity of an EU act.
- In an encouraging move for democracy and the planet, the EU Ombudsman has taken a stance against the European Investment Bank (EIB) for refusing to disclose information about the environmental impacts of projects it finances following a complaint lodged with our partner NGOs.
And finally, as a recognition of all this work, I have been nominated by Politico as one of the most influential people in shaping the EU’s green agenda, which is a nice acknowledgement of the role ClientEarth plays at EU-level.
2023 will be another crucial year – our window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic climate change and ecological collapse is tightening. We will maintain the pressure to ensure a swift transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and increased nature protection in the European Union.