In Russia, no case has been brought by citizens (or citizen groups) who think that their state is breaching the law because its climate policy does not adequately adapt to or mitigate against climate change.
The absence of such cases can be explained by: (i) a lack of comprehensive climate laws and policies for mitigation and adaptation; (ii) a significant climate scepticism at both governmental and public levels; and (iii) the fact that individuals and interest groups rarely litigate on environmental issues.
While there have been no cases of citizens (or citizen groups) challenging Russia’s national climate policy for breaching the law because it does not adequately adapt to or mitigate against climate change, future cases could be based on the following grounds.
Firstly, citizens (or citizen groups) could enforce their constitutional rights. Under Article 42 of the Russian Constitution, citizens enjoy the right to a favourable environment. A future case could therefore be brought on the grounds that, by failing to adapt to or mitigate against climate change, Russia’s national climate policy violates citizen’s fundamental right to a favourable environment. Citizens (or citizen groups) could complain to the Russian Constitutional Court that the violation of their right to a favourable environment is unconstitutional. Given that such constitutional rights are referenced in specific civil and environmental laws, citizens (or citizen groups) could also seek court protection for their right to a favourable environment under the Civil Code. When seeking court protection, the violation of their constitutional rights could include harm directly inflicted on an individual’s health or property, or harm caused to the environment. In order to realise the right to compensation for harm to health or property, claimants must show that damage has been caused by a legal violation, damage to health or property, causation between action (or lack of) and damage, and guilt. For harm caused to the environment, the burden of proof lies with the claimant, who must provide evidence of the environmental harm and a causal link between the national climate policy and the harm caused.
Secondly, where Russia’s national climate policy is enacted through legislation, it could be challenged under the Code of Administrative Proceedings of the Russian Federation. The legislation being challenged must have been already applied to the claimant or violated the claimant’s rights, freedoms and legal interests. Claimants can attempt to either fully or partially repeal the legal act(s) in question. In doing so, the court will assess whether there has been a violation of the claimant’s rights, freedoms and interests, whether jurisdictional and procedural requirements have been met by an authority, organisation or official enacting the act, and whether the act complies with legislation of higher legal force. Under the civil procedures route, full compensation is available for citizens (or citizen groups) who have been found to suffered harm to health or property, or satisfied the requirements for harm to the environment as a result of the states national climate policy. Under the administrative procedures route, the court could impose a duty on the state to revise or enact new legislation that does not violate citizen’s rights, freedoms and legal interests.
*Although in principle these legal avenues represent opportunities for citizens (or citizen groups) to bring a case against the state, litigating on such grounds is not considered to be an effective or productive pathway for challenging Russia’s national climate policy. There are several existing challenges when pursuing legal actions of this sort through the Russian legal system.
For more country specific context and relevant national climate change law see: https://climate-laws.org/geographies/russia
This country report has been produced by Humzah Khan, C2LI Senior Research Assistant and Kate McKenzie, C2LI Legal Analyst with the collaboration of Yulia Yamineva, C2LI National Rapporteur. The summary is based on Yulia Yamineva, “Opportunities for Climate Litigation in Russia: The Impossibility of the Possible” in F. Sindico and M. Moise Mbengue, Comparative Climate Change Litigation: Beyond the Usual Suspects, Springer, 2021.