Human Rights Court Hears Climate Case Against 33 Countries

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – In the latest of a growing trend of climate-related lawsuits, six Portuguese youths who sued 33 European countries for failing to fight climate change got their day in court on Wednesday, September 27th.

    Following the 2020 devastating forest fires in Portugal and without an end in sight to the ever-worsening heatwaves facing Europe and the world, Sofia, André, Catarina, Cláudia, Mariana and Martim (“the applicants”) presented a complaint against the inaction of 33 countries to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on September 20th, 2020.

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    After the court fast-tracked the case court and after overcoming objections from the relevant countries and the submission of written arguments, a panel of 22 judges from the ECHR heard the case this week. With the support of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and Youth4ClimateJustice, the youths argue that the European Convention on Human Rights imposes a duty on signatory states to take concrete actions to reduce CO2 emissions and fulfil their 2015 Paris Agreement commitments.

    “The applicants also assert that they experience anxiety caused by these natural disasters and by the prospect of spending their whole lives in an increasingly warm environment, affecting them and any future families they might have,” the ECHR recounts.

    The applicants also argue that there is a generational neglect underlying their injury. “The applicants further allege a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 2 and/or Article 8 of the Convention, arguing that global warming affects their generation particularly and that, given their age, the interference with their rights is greater than in the case of older generations,” the court adds. “They claim that the above-mentioned provisions of the Convention should be read in the light of Article 3 (1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. They also rely on the principle of intergenerational equity referred to in a number of international instruments including the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the Preamble to the Paris Agreement and the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,” the court continues.

    The case was brought against the teenagers’ homecountry of Portugal, as well as against Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switerland, Turkey, the UK, among others.

    The court will rule on the issue during the first half of 2024.

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