ELI Climate Justice – New Challenges for Law and Judges

Quick Facts

Project Type: Principles
Procedure: Regular
Adopted: CD 2021/32
Project Period: December 2021–December 2024


An overview of past and upcoming events of this project is available here.


More action is necessary and urgent concerning climate change. While specific legal rules exist, like the rules in the Paris Agreement, they might not be sufficient; moreover, their implementation by judges seems often questionable from a rule of law perspective.

Climate change problems are of cross-border nature, and the courts must address extra-territorial issues as well as questions related to both private international law and public international law. Furthermore, the courts must deal with a multilevel system of law, ie national, EU, and international law. In addition, the interface and overlap between specific international and EU climate change law, national and international public law, national and international private law, and criminal law, pose crucial methodological challenges for courts. They must find a balance between these different fields and levels of law.

The risk we are already experiencing is that different methodological approaches can result in legal uncertainty to the detriment of citizens’ legitimate expectations under the rule of law. The question is whether courts can find common ground for improved judicial cooperation in their methodological approaches to climate change problems in order to ensure improved legal certainty at European level. Similarly, while legislators may have ideas for new statutory rules for individuals, private entities and public administration, they need to understand what problems might exist and arise at the level of implementation, especially by courts.



This ELI project aims to explore new challenges for judges relating to climate justice and to develop Principles on the most pressing issues including: extra-contractual liability remedies, access to justice (who may have the right to stand and subject to what requirements?), and how judges should balance the interests of individuals, both those under climate threat and those who benefit from traditional constitutional rights (eg the right of ownership). The Principles that will be drafted will be in respect of the liability of: (a) States; (b) companies with special operating licenses; and (c) companies without special operating licenses.



The project aims to develop Principles for Climate Justice that are workable in practice. The goal is to provide an overview of different sources of law that courts, in particular national courts in Europe and the Court of Justice of the European Union, may apply in questions relating to climate justice with particular focus on liability of States and companies in internal and transboundary situations. The Principles will cover the following areas:

  • Locus Standi
  • The role of international climate change law in domestic legal systems and in the EU legal system
  • Human rights, national and international public law
  • Extra-contractual liability
  • Private international law
  • The role of courts and potential democracy deficits

Project Reporters

Project Team Members