Big win in Estonia’s first climate lawsuit

Due to errors in the environmental impact assessment, the Supreme Court of Estonia revoked the building permit granted to Enefit Power AS for the construction of a new facility, Enefit280 plant, to produce oil from oil shale. EELC (J&E Estonia) lawyers Kärt Vaarmari and Triin Jäädmaa advised the Fridays For Future-Estonia NGO acting as plaintiff during the lawsuit.

Fridays for Future Estonia


October 11, 2023

Estonia’s first climate lawsuit comes to a victorious end 

Today, the Supreme Court of Estonia ruled in favor of Fridays for Future Estonia (MTÜ Loodusvõlu) and stopped the construction of Eesti Energia’s new Enefit280-2 shale oil plant. This marks the successful conclusion of Estonia’s first climate court case, which started in spring 2020.

“We are glad that the court recognises the severity of climate change,” said Kertu Birgit Anton, an activist in Fridays for Future Estonia. “As the court pointed out, the operation of a shale oil plant may restrict people’s fundamental rights and there is no existential need to operate the plant at all costs. Every tonne of greenhouse gasses we keep out of the atmosphere is a win for the well-being of society and nature.”

Kärt Vaarmari, a legal expert at the Environmental Law Centre who advised the activists, considers the verdict extremely significant. “For the first time, the Supreme Court has addressed the conditions for deciding whether to build a project with a high climate impact, bringing important clarity. The decision shows that the law obliges public authorities to address the climate crisis and that the climate targets set in national development documents must be taken into account. Significantly, in addition to the legal reasoning, the decision is also based on science. For example, the court has relied on IPCC reports and taken into account Estonia’s greenhouse gas projections. If the municipality issues a new construction permit to the shale oil plant, the climate impact assessment will certainly be an important issue in it’s environmental permit procedures.”

In March 2020, the government increased Eesti Energia’s share capital by 125 million euros to build the new Enefit280-2 shale oil plant. In the same spring, the youth environmental movement Fridays for Future Estonia (MTÜ Loodusvõlu) filed a lawsuit in the Administrative Court of Tartu against the municipality of Narva-Jõesuu to annul the construction permit issued for the shale oil plant. In August 2022, the appeal reached the Supreme Court of Estonia, which decided to revoke the building permit in October 2023.

More information (FFF Estonia website):
The ruling of the Supreme Court (in Estonian):