In a groundbreaking legal battle, 6 young climate activists from Portugal have taken on the governments of 32 European nations at the European Court of Human Rights. Their mission: to push these governments to take more substantial action against climate change.
These 6 young adults and children, age 11 to 24, argue that European governments are falling short in protecting their citizens from the impacts of climate change. This lawsuit represents the latest and most extensive effort by climate activists to hold governments accountable for their climate actions, or inactions.
Legal teams representing the 32 nations, including EU member countries, the UK, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, and Turkey, challenged the admissibility of the case and disputed the claim that the plaintiffs were victims of climate change harm. The governments emphasized their commitment to addressing climate change through international cooperation and argued that the plaintiffs should have pursued remedies within their national courts first.
The Plaintiffs' Stand
The young activists from Portugal, represented by their legal team, countered that the nations they are suing have failed to adequately combat human-caused global warming. They insisted on the necessity of immediate and substantial action to meet climate targets set for the end of the decade. The plaintiffs argue that the failure of states to address the climate emergency directly impacts the youth and violates their fundamental rights to life, privacy and family life.
A Plea for Urgency
During the hearing, the plaintiffs' legal representative urged the judges to recognize the magnitude of the climate crisis and the need for more significant efforts by countries to curb planet-warming emissions. The argument emphasized that preventing catastrophic climate destruction cannot be left to a state's discretion.
A favorable ruling in this case could compel governments to accelerate their climate efforts, as the court's decisions are legally binding on member countries. Failure to comply with the court's rulings can result in significant fines. Moreover, this case could set a precedent for future climate-related legal battles at the domestic level by providing guidance to national courts.
The Global Climate Challenge
Despite global efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, current projections indicate that temperatures may rise by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius by 2100. The plaintiffs argue that climate change directly affects their daily lives, studies, physical health, and mental well-being. Their action was triggered by deadly wildfires in Portugal in 2017, which impacted their lives profoundly.
Wildfires roared again in Portugal this past August amistd a 46 degree celsius heatwave.
The Verdict Awaits
A decision on this landmark case is expected in several months. It remains uncertain whether the court will rule on all three climate cases, including those brought against Switzerland and France, simultaneously.
This case not only underscores the increasing role of young activists in the global climate movement but also highlights the urgency of addressing climate change on an international scale. The outcome will be closely watched by environmentalists, legal experts, and concerned citizens worldwide.
While the 6 young people from Portugal have not won this case yet, their action to protect the planet and our futures is a #WinForThePlanet 🙌🏼