The law is the best way to empower people to protect their environment, and the only way to rebalance the power between governments, industry and individuals.
We have helped governments to write environmental laws, and regulators to enforce them. We have saved Europe’s oldest forest from destruction, smoothed the way for environmental lawsuits in China, and helped communities in Africa’s last great rainforest cut illegal logging.
We make sure people can find information about the environment where they live and work, so they can take that information to court when things go wrong. We sue polluting companies, and we help them change their business model to do better in future. Because protecting the planet is best for us all.
2022 so far
- We’ve started legal action against Shell’s Board of Directors, in a claim that seeks to hold them personally liable for not managing climate risk and not preparing for a net zero future.
- We joined legal action against TotalEnergies over its misleading advertising and greenwashing.
- We’re suing the UK Government over its inadequate net zero strategy. The Government has failed to put forward policies that will properly tackle climate change, so we’re taking action.
- We’re challenging the European Commission to review what it considers ‘sustainable investment’. Currently the list includes bioenergy, bio-based plastics and chemicals used to make plastics. This is unlawful, so we’re challenging it.
- In May, we launched an internal review asking the EU council to review their decision to set EU/UK fishing limits far above scientific recommendations. It’s time to end overfishing.
- Together with Friends of the Earth Europe, Food Water Europe and CEE Bankwatch we have started legal action against the EU Commission for supporting 30 disastrous gas projects in Europe. Gas is a fossil fuel, it shouldn't be given VIP status.
- We've joined Fossielvrij NL in taking legal action against Dutch airline KLM for misleading marketing that promotes the 'sustainability' of flying.
What we achieved in 2021
After a 13-year-long fight, we won the right for all people to challenge the EU in court on decisions that break environmental law. Previously, only NGOs could do this – so this reform gives members of the public the opportunity to hold the EU to account over climate change and biodiversity loss.
We launched the Greenwashing Files, investigating the advertising claims of some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies and exposing the reality behind the greenwashing.
After our legal intervention, Polish authorities announced that Belchatow – Europe’s biggest coal plant – will start to wind up operations and published a plan to close the plant.
In a massive win for the UK and the climate, Drax confirmed it will abandon its plans to build Europe’s largest gas plant. Now we want to see Drax embrace real low-carbon and sustainable energy.
The European Commission started new proceedings against the Polish government for their continued failure to protect Bialowieza – Europe’s oldest forest.
Our key wins in 2020
In a landmark decision, a Polish District court judge demanded the operators of Europe’s biggest coal plant negotiate with our lawyers to accelerate its closure.
Republic of Congo passed a new law to help ensure more sustainable management of the country’s vast forests. Our legal experts spent eight years working with local partner organisations to help draft the law.
We have our first win in our fight against the expansion of a plastics plant in Antwerp. Following our legal action, project owners INEOS begin a comprehensive environmental impact assessment so the plant’s total impact can’t be ignored.
Polish energy company Enea announce they will suspend construction of planned coal plant Ostroleka C following our shareholder lawsuit.
BP announced they were pulling their Possibilities Everywhere ad campaign after we made a complaint, citing greenwashing.
The Australian government promised $25m in climate adaptation spending for the Torres Strait – a key ask of a group of eight islanders who brought a world-first human rights complaint over the country's climate inaction
Greece annuls the environmental permits for two coal-fired power stations following our legal action.
What we achieved in 2019
- After a multi-year legal battle the EU’s top court said that the failure by German authorities to follow court orders on air pollution is a serious breach of the rule of law and of fundamental rights and endorsed strong sanctions
- In November, the European Investment Bank announced it will stop funding fossil fuel projects from 2021 after months of advocacy from ClientEarth lawyers
- We put 100 local authorities across England on notice, warning them that they will violate their legal obligations and risk legal challenge if they do not introduce proper climate change plans
- Twelve top China judges completed a leadership development programme designed by ClientEarth and Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment to help them implement China’s new environmental laws.
- We scored a major win in our novel shareholder lawsuit against Enea, the project co-owner of planned coal plant Ostraleka C, putting its future in question.
- In a world first, our lawyers act on behalf of a group of indigenous Australians to challenge their government’s climate failings at the UN.
- In March, Poland’s Supreme Administrative Court upheld the decision to ban solid coal and wood burning in Krakow
Our 2018 achievements
- The Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union found in our favour in ruling that the European Commission must make impact assessments that support its decision-making process public. This was the culmination of a four-year battle for us, and is a judgement that has far-reaching consequences.
- We reported four major UK companies to the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) over failures to address climate change trends and risks in their reports to shareholders.
- Following advocacy from our climate finance team, the UK pensions regulator explicitly recognises climate change as a long-term financial risk.
- Judges ruled that increased logging in Bialowieza Forest violates EU law.
- ClientEarth made legal history after a High Court judge ruled that the court should have effective oversight of the UK government’s next air pollution plans.
The EU’s top court upheld the emergency ban on logging in Bialowieza Forest, Europe’s oldest forest, saying it will impose fines of at least €100,000 a day if Poland’s Environment Minister keeps ignoring the Court’s decisions. By the end of November, the harvesters had withdrawn.
We warn BP and Glencore of the risk of investor lawsuits based on poor climate change reporting. The UK financial regulator changes its risk reporting rules to incorporate climate risk in response to our work
Working alongside local communities and other campaigners we block Polnoc plant, the largest new coal power plant in Europe.
We train judges and prosecutors in China to use environmental law. Since then, ClientEarth has supported the development of more than 600 environmental courts and over 140,000 legal challenges have been filed, against companies and government departments violating environmental laws.
Our EU-wide community power project establishes the legal basis to help people own renewables and contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable power system.
We win our Supreme Court case against the UK government for failing to tackle our dirty air, because climate change and air pollution go hand in hand.
Coal is the main cause of life-limiting air quality in Krakow. We convince the authorities to ban coal for domestic heating.
We block Polish government attempts to prop up its polluting coal fleet with free carbon emissions allowances for ineligible power plants.
We file complaints against Rio Tinto and BP for inadequately disclosing climate impacts in their annual reports.
We are key players in getting an EU-wide law banning illegally harvested rainforest timber passed, significantly reducing CO2 emissions and protecting fragile habitats.
In response to our work the UK Government agrees to do environmental assessments before approving new coal plants. A new generation of climate-damaging coal power is shelved.
We use law as a tool to mend the relationship between human societies and the Earth. We work all around the world, bringing together law, science and policy to create practical solutions to key environmental challenges.James Thornton, President and founder