The lawsuit in which everyone wins
Belgium is not keeping its international climate promises, so the non-profit Climate Case is aiming to change that via the courts. To enforce an ambitious climate policy, we’re bringing a lawsuit against the four Belgian governments with climate competences. You can no longer join the lawsuit as a co-claimant, but you can still support us morally and financially.
Why is this lawsuit necessary?
This lawsuit is necessary because temperature records continue to be broken, because flooding is becoming more frequent… but above all because there is no real Belgian climate policy. We’ve seen in the Netherlands that this can be enforced via legal action: the Dutch climate organisation Urgenda won a similar case that has led to an ambitious climate law.
How has the lawsuit progressed?
Climate Case sends formal notice to the four Belgian authorities
Non-profit Climate Case formally declares the four responsible governments (the regions and the federal state) to be in breach of their climate obligations. Climate Case calls on the governments to fulfill their responsibilities – to reduce Belgium’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.
Consensus with ministers seems impossible
Climate Case is invited by federal minister Marie-Christine Marghem to sit round the table with the four relevant ministers. It seems impossible to reach a consensus.
Climate Case subpoenas the four Belgian governments
Climate Case summons the governments to appear in court.
The legal proceedings begin
The subpoena is served on the four responsible ministers. This represents the start of legal proceedings. The competent court is the French-language court of first instance in Brussels. As one of the defendants – the Walloon Region – is based outside Brussels, the language laws mean the case must also be heard in French.
Flemish Region requests language change
During the introductory hearing, the Flemish Region requests the language of proceedings to be changed to Dutch. If that is not possible, the region wants proceedings to be divided. That would entail two separate proceedings: one in Dutch and one in French. Besides doubling the cost, there would also be a considerable risk of two different judgements being handed down.
Language change not granted
The French-language court of first instance denies the Flemish Region’s request.
Flemish Region appeals to district court
The Flemish Region doesn’t accept the decision and appeals it in the district court, a court of law with Dutch- and French-speaking judges. They consider whether the language law was violated by the French-speaking judge in the court of first instance in Brussels.
Confirmation of original judgement
The district court upholds the original judgement and the language of proceedings will remain French. Moreover, it will be heard as a single case.
Joke Schauvliege lodges an appeal
Flemish minister Joke Schauvliege tells the Environmental Commission that she will be appealing. She wants to overturn the district court’s decision via the Court of Cassation.
Court of Cassation postpones verdict
The Court of Cassation, which previously announced it would rule on Climate Case, unexpectedly postpones its verdict until 2 March.
Cassation judgement postponed again
The judgement is again postponed at the hearing, until 20 April. The court has therefore taken almost eight months longer than average to reach a decision. In April 2018, it will be two years since Joke Schauvliege lodged her appeal.
Court of Cassation rejects Joke Schauvliege’s appeal
The Court of Cassation rejects the appeal by Joke Schauvliege and thereby confirms the judgement of the district court of 8 February 2016. The language issue is now definitely resolved and we can begin the proceedings that ultimately affect us all: the actual Climate Case.
Climate case receives main conclusions from governments
The main conclusions are the first and most important response of governments to our summons. The discussion will now build on this. In their conclusions, the authorities try to refute the inadequacy of the Belgian climate policy. We will argue that, among other things, science contradicts this.
Request for voluntary intervention protected trees
On the initiative of the movement for social-ecological change Aardewerk, the counsellors Hendrik Schoukens and Gwijde Vermeire submitted a request for voluntary intervention in the name of 82 protected trees, in which they joined the demand of Climate Case. The intervention advocated legal standing for nature. This too is a scoop in Belgium.
Filing of main conclusions Climate case
Our principle argument is that we want the competent authorities to be condemned for failing to act on climate policy. In our main conclusions, we are demanding a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on Belgian territory of at least 42 to 48% in 2025 and at least 55 to 65% in 2030, each time compared to the base year of 1990. In 2050, we must continue to move towards zero net emissions. Indeed, science agrees that these reduction percentages are necessary to prevent dangerous global warming of +1.5°C. Given the importance and urgency of the matter at hand, we are asking for a penalty payment of EUR 1 million for every month of delay in enforcing the judgment.
Climate case receives additional conclusions from governments
With their additional conclusions, the governments respond to our main conclusions laid down in June. We can share with you the additional conclusions of the Brussels-Capital and Walloon Regions. Unfortunately, the federal and Flemish ministers maintain their objection to the publication of their arguments.
Climate case lays down its final decisions
In our final synthesis conclusions, we argue that the inadequate climate policy pursued by the Belgian authorities constitutes a violation both of the standard of care and of human and children's rights. A warming of more than 1.5°C is dangerous, which is precisely why the international community and Belgium have decided that we must stay below that level. But the Belgian authorities fall short in this respect. What's more, our climate policy threatens to sink further and further into the rearguard internationally.
Climate case receives final conclusions from governments
They are anything but reassuring. Click here for our reaction to the synthesis conclusions (in French).
The submission of the final conclusions of the authorities was the final step in the written phase of the court case. This will be followed by oral pleadings, which will take place in the French-speaking court of first instance in Brussels. Due to the corona crisis, it is not possible for the time being to set final dates for the hearings.
We can share with you the final conclusions of the Brussels-Capital and Walloon Regions. Unfortunately, the federal and Flemish ministers maintain their objection to the publication of their arguments.
Who is Climate Case?
11 founders, 21 ambassadors and more than 40 volunteers
Climate Case was founded in 2014 by 11 concerned citizens who wanted to take action against Belgium’s ailing climate policy. Since then, 21 ambassadors and more than 40 volunteers have played their part in the project.I want to become a volunteer
Serge de Gheldere - Ignace Schops - Johan Van Den Bosch - Lambert Schoenmaekers - Dirk De Clippeleir - Tom Lenaerts - Francesca Vanthielen - Nic Balthazar - Stijn Meuris - Koen Vanmechelen - Tom Brookes
__Sihame El Kaouakibi (sociaal ondernemer) - Stan Van Samang (zanger) - Saartje Vandendriessche (tv-presentatrice) - Stijn Devillé (toneelschrijver en regisseur) - Griet Op De Beeck (schrijfster) - Peter Tom Jones (ingenieur urbanist) - Michel Genet (politiek directeur) - Wannes Capelle (zanger) - Tine Hens (journalist) - Tomas Wyns (onderzoeker) - Jonathan Holslag (onderzoeker) - Kamagurka (artiest) - Alexia Leysen (toneelschrijfster en activiste) - Jef Neve (pianist) - Jeroen Olyslaegers (schrijver) - Joost Callens (ondernemer) - Stefan Grosjean (ondernemer) - David Van Reybroeck (schrijver) - Anuna De Wever (Youth for Climate) - Kyra Gantois (Youth for Climate) - François de Borchgrave (stichter KOIS).
A board of directors and a coordination and communication team
The eight members of the board of directors set out the strategy. Climate Case has one member of staff, Sarah Tak, who coordinates everything . She is assisted by BlueGround for bookkeeping and by Unanimous and Cypres for communication.
Serge de Gheldere (voorzitter) - Ignace Schops (vice-voorzitter) - Lambert Schoenmaekers (schatbewaarder) - Johan Van Den Bosch (penningmeester) - Sarah Van Riel - Francesca Vanthielen - Dirk De Clippeleir - Jean-Pol Boone.
How do we spend our money?
The money we raise pays for our legal costs, the running costs of the non-profit and the costs of communication and fund-raising. Any money left after the case will be passed on to Belgian organisations and projects working on ecology and transition.View our budget (in Dutch) >
View our budget (in French) >
Send an email to friends
Email your friends and colleagues and encourage them to join in. We’ve prepared a short message to inspire you.SEND AN EMAIL