Italy has experienced litigation challenging the state for ineffective climate action. In the case A Sud et al. v. Italy, filed in June 2021, a group of associations and citizens filed a case against the government alleging that the state has failed to take sufficient measures to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals. At the time of preparing this summary, the case had not been heard. The case is based on the following grounds:
- Human rights: The plaintiffs allege that:
- the state is obliged to protect the human right to a stable and safe climatefor the benefit of the present and the future generations. They argue that this right derives from the “essential content” of fundamental rights set out in Article 52 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which forms part of EU law (Art. 6 of the Treaty of the European Union).
- The state is obliged to honor positive obligations derived from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), particularly Art. 2 (right to life) and Art. 8 (respect for private and family life), by countering the climate emergency.
- delaying the reduction of emissions will discriminate against the younger generations who will be forced to bear the cost and adverse consequences of such inaction and consequently a violation of Art. 14 ECHR (prohibition against discrimination).
- International climate obligations: The Claimants derive the State’s climate obligations from the UNFCCC, Paris Agreement and EU Regulations nos. 2018/842, 2018/1999, 2020/852, 2021/241 Having signed international agreements and instruments on climate change, the State is obliged to fulfill the obligations and do so in good faith (Convention on the Law of Treaties, Art. 4 n.3 TEU, Articles 1375 and 1175 of the Italian Civil Code). While relying on caselaw, the plaintiffs further allege that;
- International climate laws must be framed within the Italian constitutional system (Constitutional Court decision no. 124/2010; 85/2012; Council of State (V Section) decision no. 4768/2012 and (Section VI) no. 4567/2016.
- The Paris Agreementis the first universal and legally binding climate treaty, and the international climate laws entered by the EU must be considered as EU law, and thus as directly applicable in Italy. (Supreme Court (Section V), no. 4568 and 2572/2021).
- State responsibility under civil law. The plaintiffs argue that the state has violated its civil responsibility under Articles 2043 and 2051 of the Italian Civil Code. Article 2043 requires any person who causes unjustified injury through an intentional or negligent act to compensate the injured party for harm. Courts have extended the applicability of this provision to the state and asserted that civil liability includes preventing harmful consequences of inaction and regression (Decision no. 641/1987, Constitutional Court )
- According to Article 2051 of the Civil Code, everyone is responsible for the damage caused to the things in their custody. The plaintiffs argue that the state is responsible for the damage caused to the natural resources (including the elements of the climate system), which according to Art. 117 of the Constitution, are under its sovereignty in the Italian territory. Furthermore, that the State’s role of stewardship towards natural resources is based on international law, including: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
In A Sud et al. v. Italy, the plaintiffs are seeking the following remedies:
- A declaration that the Italian state is responsible for the dangerous situation resulting from its inaction in combating the climate emergency; and
- An order directing the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 92% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
Standing: According to civil procedure code (Art. 100), in order to bring an action, one needs to have an interest in it. This interest is determined by the existence of an advantage or benefit that could not be obtained without the judge’s intervention.
Where one alleges violation of personal right(s), the mere allegation of entitlement to the right(s) alleged to have been violated is sufficient to establish standing.
Regarding cases before the administrative court for the annulment of unlawful acts, Italian law grants standing to environmental associations which have been recognized as having “national character” by the Minister of the Environment (Articles 13 and 18.5 of the Law no. 349/1986).
- A Sud et al. v Italy, Civil Court of Rome 
- Decision no. 124/2010, Constitutional Court , Decision no. 4768/2012, Council of State (Section V) , Decision no. 4567/2016 (Section VI)  (on the framing of international climate laws within the Italian constitutional system)
- Decision no. 2572/2021 and 7343/2021, Supreme Court (Section V) , (on the legal bindingness of international climate law)
- Decision no. 641/1987, Constitutional Court , (on the civil responsibility of the state for environmental damages)
For more country specific context and relevant national climate change law see: https://climate-laws.org/geographies/italy
This country report has been produced by Carlotta Garofalo, C2LI Research Assistant, Humzah Khan, C2LI Senior Research Assistant and Lydia Omuko-Jung, C2LI Legal Analyst. The summary is based on Barbara Pozzo, “The Italian path to climate change: nothing new under the sun” in F. Sindico and M. Moise Mbengue, Comparative Climate Change Litigation: Beyond the Usual Suspects, Springer, 2021.