In a historic move, six young climate activists from Portugal, aged between 11 and 24, are taking a stand against 32 European governments. They are petitioning at the European Court of Human Rights, alleging that these governments are violating their human rights by failing to adequately address climate change issues.
The case, dubbed as the 'Children's Climate Case', is the first of its kind to be heard in this court. It seeks to hold multiple governments accountable for their alleged inaction and complacency towards the escalating climate crisis.
"We are fighting for our lives. Climate change is already here, and it's only getting worse," said Sofia Oliveira, one of the young activists, in a press conference. "We want to ensure that governments are held accountable for their lack of action."
The countries being sued include the 27 European Union member states, as well as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. The activists argue that these governments are responsible for about a third of the world's carbon emissions, contributing significantly to global warming and climate change.
The lawsuit is supported by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), a non-profit organization that provides legal assistance to individuals and communities affected by human rights violations.
According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), human activities are likely to increase the world's temperature by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels within the next two decades, if current trends continue. The report also states that this increase could have devastating global effects, including more frequent and intense heatwaves, rising sea levels, and severe droughts.
"This case is about the future of all children. It's about their right to live in a world where they can grow up without fearing the devastating impacts of climate change," said Gerry Liston, Legal Officer at GLAN. "The European Court of Human Rights has a chance to lead the way in holding governments accountable for their failure to protect the rights of young people."
The Portuguese activists are not alone in their fight. They join a growing global movement of young people, including Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement, who are using legal action to demand stronger climate action from their governments.
The case is expected to set a precedent for future climate litigation. It will test the extent to which governments can be held legally accountable for their climate policies, potentially changing the landscape of climate justice.
The European Court of Human Rights has fast-tracked the case, reflecting the urgency of the matter. A decision is expected in the next 12 to 18 months.