Environmental organisations secure a landmark victory before the Constitutional Court

2024 - 04 - 09

COBALT has successfully helped various Latvian environmental organisations to secure a historical victory at the Constitutional Court, challenging a legal framework that allowed the cutting down of smaller-diameter trees in Latvian forests. This is the first time the Constitutional Court assessed a matter on forest management and its sustainability in Latvia.

On 8 April 2024, the Constitutional Court rendered its judgment in Case No. 2023-01-03, recognising that the Government’s adopted provisions regarding the cutting down of smaller-diameter trees in Latvian forests violate Article 115 of the Latvian Constitution, which safeguards everyone’s right to live in a healthy environment. The Court emphasised that any legal framework likely to exert a significant impact on the environment must undergo a thorough assessment, equally weighing the considerations of public welfare, environmental protection, and economic interests.

The Court recognized that whilst the State has the right to adopt decisions potentially affecting the environment, such decisions must comply with the principle of sustainability embedded within the Constitution. Likewise, the precautionary principle, as enshrined in Article 115 of the Constitution, is of significant importance too, requiring that all potential adverse consequences be identified and evaluated before any proposed action is undertaken. That was not done in the case at hand.

The above judgement has highlighted a multitude of deep-rooted core issues within Latvia’s approach to environmental protection that requires immediate focus. It signifies a substantial milestone in the evolution of Latvian environmental law and is set to serve as a critical turning point for further progression of sustainable policies in Latvia.

The case was brought before the Constitutional Court by the Latvian Fund for Nature, the Latvian Ornithological Society and the World Wildlife Fund. The application was supported by the association “Zaļā Brīvība” and the Latvian Association of Organic Agriculture.

Representation of the applicants before the Constitutional Court was ensured by COBALT Senior Associate Dr. Toms Krūmiņš.