Young Portuguese Climate Activists Take 32 Countries to Court Over Inadequate Climate Action
This month six young individuals from Portugal are taking legal action against 32 countries through the European Court of Human Rights.
They accuse these nations of failing to adequately address the urgent issue of climate change. The basis of their argument lies in the assertion that the climate crisis directly violates several fundamental rights safeguarded by the European Convention on Human Rights.
These rights include the right to life, the right to privacy, protection from inhumane or degrading treatment, and the right not to be subjected to discrimination.
The origins of this case can be traced back to a devastating wildfire that ravaged Portugal in 2017, resulting in a significant loss of life. However, the lawsuit goes beyond this particular event, highlighting the broader and ongoing consequences of climate change, which are already affecting people’s lives in numerous ways.
The accused countries encompass all the members of the European Union, along with Norway, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Turkey. The sheer scale of this legal battle is unprecedented and is being closely watched by legal experts and environmental activists alike.
The countries facing these allegations argue that the young plaintiffs cannot be considered unique victims of the climate crisis and question the extent of the harm experienced or anticipated by them. If the court rules in favour of the plaintiffs, it could set a crucial legal precedent linking climate change and human rights.
Such a ruling might empower climate activists to seek legal remedies in their respective national courts, compelling their governments to take more substantial actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This legal case follows previous efforts by environmental organisations, including Greenpeace, to hold governments accountable for their commitments to combat climate change through legal channels, with outcomes that have varied. The European Court of Human Rights is expected to render a judgment on this case within a timeframe of nine to eighteen months.