EU-level news

ECTHR ruled that climate inaction violates human rights 

On 9 April 2024, the European Court of Human Rights handed down a groundbreaking ruling in a case concerning elderly Swiss women and climate change.

This is a major decision, as it is the first time that the Court has dealt with climate change issues, setting an important legal precedent.

The case highlights the complex link between climate change and fundamental human rights and underlines the urgent need for decisive action.

Switzerland was found to have violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which guarantees the right to respect for private and family life) and Article 6(1) (which refers to the right of access to a court).

It is expected that the implications of this decision will not be limited to this particular case, but may also lead to changes in strategies and policies regarding climate change litigation across Europe.

Read more about the case “Verein Klimaseniorinnen Schweiz and others v. Switzerland“.

CS3D final text adopted with last-minute changes, fewer companies will be within its scope

On 24 April 2024 the European Parliament adopted the long-awaited revised text of the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CS3D).

CS3D require firms and their upstream and downstream partners – including for supply, production and distribution – to prevent, end or mitigate their adverse impact on human rights and the environment. Examples of such impact include slavery, child labour, labour exploitation, biodiversity loss, pollution and destruction of natural heritage.

Last-minute changes raised the compliance thresholds, meaning that fewer companies will be within its scope; moreover, they will have more time to prepare for the new rules. The rules will apply to EU companies and parent companies with over 1,000 employees and a worldwide turnover higher than EUR 450 million. It will also apply to companies with franchising or licensing agreements in the EU ensuring a common corporate identity with worldwide turnover higher than EUR 80 million if at least EUR 22.5 million was generated by royalties. Non-EU companies, parent companies and companies with franchising or licensing agreements in the EU reaching the same turnover thresholds in the EU will also be covered.

The new rules will come into force gradually (except for the communication obligations):

  • from 2027, for companies with over 5,000 employees and a worldwide turnover higher than EUR 1,500 million
  • from 2028, for firms with over 3,000 employees and a worldwide turnover higher than EUR 900 million
  • from 2029, for all remaining companies within the scope of the directive (including those with over 1,000 employees and worldwide turnover higher than EUR 450 million)

Member states will be required to provide companies with detailed online information on their due diligence obligations via informative websites containing the Commission’s guidance.

The directive now also needs to be formally endorsed by the Council, and to be signed and published in The Official Journal of the European Union. It will enter into force 20 days later. Member states will have two years to transpose the new rules into their national laws.

Energy Performance of Buildings Directive adopted to bring down energy bills and reduce emissions

On 12 April 2024 the Commission welcomed the final adoption of the strengthened Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, another milestone for the European Green Deal. This legislation sets the framework for member states to reduce emissions and energy use in buildings across the EU, from homes and workplaces to schools, hospitals and other public buildings. This will help improve people’s health and quality of life. The revised Directive sets ambitious targets to reduce the overall energy use of buildings across the EU, taking into account national specificities. It leaves up to member states which specific buildings to target and which specific measures to take, and will boost demand for clean technologies made in Europe, and create jobs, investment, and growth.

Each member state will adopt its own national trajectory to reduce the average primary energy use of residential buildings, by 16% by 2030 and 20–22% by 2035. For non-residential buildings, they will need to renovate the 16% worst-performing buildings by 2030 and the 26% worst-performing buildings by 2033. Member states will have the option to exempt certain categories of residential and non-residential buildings from these obligations, such as historical buildings or holiday homes. Citizens will be supported in their efforts to improve their homes. The Directive requires the establishment of one-stop shops for advice on building renovation, and provisions on public and private financing will make renovation more affordable and feasible.

The revised Directive will be published in The Official Journal of the European Union and enter into force in the coming weeks. Member states will then have to transpose it into their national legislation.

Methane: parliament adopts new law to reduce emissions from energy sector

On 11 April 2024, the parliament adopted the first EU-wide legislation to cut methane emissions.

The new law also includes requirements for imported oil, gas and coal from 2027.

The new law will enable the EU to reduce methane emissions from the energy sector, in order to reach the EU’s climate goals and improve air quality.

The law now has to also be adopted by the Council, before being published in The Official Journal of the European Union and entering into force 20 days later.

MEPs adopt stricter CO2 emissions targets for trucks and buses 

On 11 April 2024, MEPs adopted stricter CO2 emissions targets for trucks and buses, delivering on climate ambitions and improving EU air quality.

The target is to have zero-emission urban buses by 2035.

CO2 emissions from large trucks (including vocational vehicles, such as garbage trucks, tippers and concrete mixers) and buses will have to be reduced by 45% for the period 2030–2034, 65% for 2035–2039, and 90% from 2040. By 2030, new urban buses will need to reduce their emissions by 90% and become zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Emissions reduction targets have also been set for trailers (7.5%) and semi-trailers (10%), starting from 2030.

The Council still needs to formally approve the agreement before it can enter into force.

New EU rules to improve urban wastewater treatment and reuse

On 11 April 2024, MEPs approved new EU rules for the collection, treatment and discharge of urban wastewater.

The aim is to achieve better monitoring of chemical pollutants, pathogens and antimicrobial resistance and wider reuse of treated urban wastewater, in order to prevent water scarcity.

Producers of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics and member states will have to finance the costs of additional treatment for micro-pollutants.

The Council also needs to formally approve the agreement before it can enter into force.

Air pollution: parliament adopts revised law to improve air quality

On 25 April 2024, the European Parliament adopted a revised law to improve air quality.

The revised law aims to reduce air pollution in the EU in order to ensure a clean and healthy environment for citizens, and to achieve the EU’s vision of zero air pollution by 2050.

The provisional political agreement with EU countries on new measures to improve air quality in the EU was adopted in order to ensure that the air in no longer harmful to human health, natural ecosystems and biodiversity.

The new rules set stricter limits for 2030 and target values for pollutants with a severe impact on human health, including particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), and SO2 (sulphur dioxide). Member states may request that the 2030 deadline be postponed by up to 10 years, if specific conditions are met.

The law now has to also be adopted by the Council, before being published in The Official Journal of the European Union and entering into force 20 days later. EU countries will then have two years to apply the new rules.

New EU rules to reduce, reuse and recycle packaging

The rules, which have been provisionally agreed on with the Council, include packaging reduction targets (5% by 2030, 10% by 2035 and 15% by 2040) and require EU countries to reduce, in particular, the amount of plastic packaging waste. To reduce unnecessary packaging, a maximum empty space ratio of 50% is set for grouped, transport and e-commerce packaging; manufacturers and importers will also have to ensure that the weight and volume of packaging are minimised.

Certain types of single-use plastic packaging will be banned from 1 January 2030. These include packaging for unprocessed fresh fruit and vegetables, packaging for foods and beverages filled and consumed in cafés and restaurants, individual portions (for e.g. condiments, sauces, creamer, sugar), miniature packaging for toiletry products used in the hospitality sector and very lightweight plastic carrier bags (below 15 microns).

To prevent adverse health effects, the text includes a ban on the use of so called “forever chemicals” (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances or PFASs) above certain thresholds in food contact packaging.

Final distributors of beverages and takeaway food will have to offer consumers the option of bringing their own container. They will also be required to endeavour to offer 10% of products in a reusable packaging format by 2030.

Under the new rules, all packaging (except for lightweight wood, cork, textile, rubber, ceramic, porcelain and wax) will have to be recyclable, fulfilling strict criteria.

The Council needs to formally approve the agreement as well before it can enter into force.

MEPs adopt plans to boost Europe’s net-zero technology production

  • the aim is to make the EU internal market fit for industrial decarbonisation
  • the bill supports manufacturing of key technologies needed for EU’s climate and energy objectives
  • faster permitting procedures and establishing net-zero industry valleys
  • new criteria for public procurement procedures, auctions for renewable energy sources

The “Net-Zero Industry Act”, already informally agreed upon with the Council, sets a target for the EU of producing 40% of its annual deployment needs in net-zero technologies by 2030, based on National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) and to capture 15% of the global market value for these technologies.

Technologies to be supported include all renewable technologies, nuclear, industrial decarbonisation, grid, energy storage technologies, and biotech. The law will simplify the permitting process, setting maximum timelines for projects to be authorised depending on their scope and output.

The legislation will encourage funding from national Emission Trading System (ETS) revenues and for most strategic projects through the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP), and it is a step towards a European Sovereignty Fund.

It will now have to be formally adopted by Council in order to become law.

Commission defines principles on limiting most harmful chemicals to essential uses

On 22 April 2024, the Commission adopted guiding criteria and principles for what constitutes “essential uses” of the most harmful chemicals.

The guiding criteria and principles give industry and investors predictability regarding the manufacturing of products indispensable for the green and digital transition, health and defence in the EU. It is a concrete deliverable of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, aiming to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the most harmful chemicals, and to move towards a toxic-free environment.

The concept of “essential uses” helps assess when it is justified, from a societal point of view, to use the most harmful substances. In cases where use is necessary for health and/or safety, and/or it is critical for the functioning of society, and if there are no acceptable alternatives, this substance can continue to be used for that purpose for a certain period of time. Detailed provisions should be set out in specific EU legislation applying the essential use concept.

Legislative news and ESG initiatives in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania

In Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, parliamentary processes continue to transpose the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive into the local laws. No significant deviations or more stringent rules than those stipulated in the directive are expected in the Baltics; and all three Baltic countries expect that the local laws will be adopted by the deadline, i.e. 6 July 2024.

The Baltic banking sector contributes to the green transition

Three Baltic States banking associations have created a GHG emissions calculator that is freely accessible to all organisations. For more information, check the website.


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Contact the authors:

Vitalija Impolevičienė

Co-head of Sorainen ESG team, Lithuania






Agita Sprude,

Senior Associate, Latvia






Elina Mizerova,

Associate, Estonia