September 15, 2016

Youth sue Swedish state for coal deal

Swedish youth sued the Swedish government for allowing the sale of state-owned company Vattenfall to go ahead. The group is demanding that the court stop the deal immediately and declare it illegal, alleging that it violates the Swedish constitution as well as a number of international and Swedish laws and agreements.

In July 2016, the Swedish government approved a deal in which its state-owned energy company Vattenfall is allowed to sell its lignite mines in Germany to Czech risk capitalist company EPH. This is a step for Sweden to become a "greener" country, but the real effect will be that emissions in Germany are likely to increase. EPH has made t clear it wants to see a “coal renaissance” in Europe, and wants to expand coal mining in the acquired area.

Analysis shows that the coal assets hidden in the EPH deal, equals 22 times Sweden's current annual emissions: 1.2 bn tonnes of CO2.

PUSH Sweden, Nature & Youth Sweden and individual plaintiffs have challenged the sale as a violation of the Swedish government’s duty of care to its citizens to protect their right to a non-harmful climate. The youth argue that the actions of the Swedish state are not in line with the Paris Agreement, the Swedish constitution, Sweden's national and international climate change commitments, and the state’s responsibility for future generations. The petition argues that the sale would enable the expanded exploitation of lignite coal assets, resulting in emissions in excess of limits that correspond to climate stability. It further notes that Sweden has committed to act to avoid breaching those limits.

On this basis, the plaintiffs have asked the court to declare that 1) the Swedish state has breached its duty of care with the sale, and 2) the sale is illegal. The plaintiffs have also asked the court to order publication of the environmental review conducted in advance of the sale, which the government has so far withheld. As the plaintiffs explain, the only legally permissible approach to Vattenfall’s coal-related assets is to dismantle them in a way that prevents their further contribution to the causes of climate change.

Read an English translation of the summons here.