Why 32 European countries are facing the biggest climate action lawsuit to date | understand


The story so far: September 27 marks the start of a historic legal battle in the environmental action movement. Stage: European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. The actors in question: 32 European governments (including Britain, Russia and Turkey) and six young people from Portugal, aged 11 to 24. The plaintiffs will argue before 17 judges that their governments have failed to take sufficient climate action. crisis, thereby violating their human rights and discriminating against youth globally. Gearóid Ó Cuinn of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) said the scale and outcome of the case was unprecedented. “This is really a case of David and Goliath…never before have so many countries had to defend themselves before any court in the world,” he told reporters.

The narrative of youth taking governments to court is gaining momentum: According to the UN’s Global Climate Litigation Report, by December 2022, 2,180 climate-related cases were pending in international and regional courts, tribunals and quasi-judicial bodies in 65 countries. were filed. At least 34 cases were brought by, or on behalf of, children and youth under the age of 25. In addition to youth, women, local communities and local stakeholders, “were driving climate change governance reform.”

What is the case?

Duarte Agostinho and others v. Portugal and others Listed in September 2020, following the 2017 wildfires that consumed Liria, Portugal. About 66 people died, and 20,000 hectares of forests were destroyed. A recent spate of heat waves and fires in Greece, Canada and other parts of Europe served as a reminder that warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius would be catastrophic, exacerbating “multiple and synergistic risks”. Gay, as stated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. report it.

Portuguese youth claim that European countries have failed to meet their climate emissions targets, and are falling behind on their global carbon budget in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. They are expected to present scientific evidence that global warming will rise by 3°C in their lifetime if every country continues at current rates. Nations have thus violated the fundamental rights of people protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to life, the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to privacy and family life, and the right to freedom from discrimination. Includes the right to privacy. “

These European governments are failing to protect us… our ability to do anything, to live our lives, is being limited. The climate crisis is affecting our physical health and our mental health. How can you not be afraid?” Andre dos Santos Oliveira, 15, told a media house. More than 50 percent of young people in other countries, including France, India and the United States, said they felt sad, worried, angry, powerless, powerless. Simply and feel guilty because they have “little power to limit the damages of climate change”.

As 32 countries contribute to climate catastrophe and put young people’s futures at risk, it is up to nations to rapidly reduce their emissions and set higher targets for reducing domestic emissions. What is shown by the scientific evidence, is the argument of the case. Other proposed measures include reducing fossil fuel production and cleaning up global supply chains.

The European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change (ESABCC), an organization that provides scientific advice to EU countries, said countries would have to target a 75% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels (the current EU 55 as opposed to %). “Under some of these rules, the European Union has already exhausted its fair share of the global emissions budget,” their report said, echoing the plaintiffs’ claim that European countries have reduced their carbon emissions. Budget claims have been exaggerated. The EU is currently the sixth largest emitter with 7.2 tonnes of CO2 per capita, compared to the world average of 6.3 tonnes per capita.

UNICEF has called the climate crisis a “children’s rights crisis”, as unabated carbon emissions and extreme weather threaten access to education, health, nutrition and the future. The research agrees: Air pollution is already linked to poor birth outcomes and an increased risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Heat waves are causing mental health problems. UNICEF notes that both are translating into “lowered academic performance as well as a wider disruption of missed school days.”

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child also stated that water scarcity, food insecurity, physical trauma from sudden and slow-onset events, vector-borne and water-borne diseases – climate change. Due to the rapid development of diseases “disproportionally caused by children”. .

Source: Global Climate Litigation Report: 2023 Status Review

How did governments respond?

It comes down to cause and effect: countries have so far rejected any link between climate change and its effects on human health. For example, Greece, in its submissions, maintained that the effects of climate change “do not directly affect human life or human health.” It also comes as the country witnessed devastating forest fires that destroyed 72,000 hectares of land and livelihoods earlier this year, the worst in Europe according to the European Commission. There was a big fire.

The Portuguese and Irish governments have dismissed these concerns as ‘fear of the future’, arguing that there is no evidence that climate change poses an immediate threat to their lives, and that their claims are only depend on “mere assumptions or general probabilities”.

Other nations have argued that they are on track to meet climate goals designed to protect the interests of their citizens. The UK has presented evidence of its proactive climate action, highlighting its 10-point plan and ‘concrete steps’ to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Some policies such as the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030, however, have now been scrapped by the new Rishi Singh government, thus weakening their defence. GLAN’s Gerry Liston said, “Now is the time to step up ambitions, not back down on existing commitments,” adding that the UK’s new policy is “not only senseless and immoral”, but “immoral”. “Legal” as well.

The Age of Climate Lawsuits

The European Convention on Human Rights has jurisdiction over 47 member states. Two other cases are pending before the Grand Chamber. I Verein Klimaseniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. SwitzerlandMore than 2,000 women have taken to a Swiss court, arguing that climate change threatens their lives and health, and that it is the state’s responsibility to protect their human rights. “The Court recognizes the urgency and importance of finding an answer to the question of whether states violate the human rights of older women by failing to take necessary steps to protect the climate,” Rosemary Weidler Walti, Senior Women for Climate Co-President said. Conservation Switzerland, to Greenpeace.

A second case was filed in March of this year: the former mayor of Grande Sint, France Carême v. France Submitted that France has responded inadequately to the climate crisis, which is a violation of the right to life (Article 2 of the Convention) and the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 of the Convention).

The novelty of Duarte Agostinho The issue is not limited to the fact that nearly a quarter of the world’s nations defend their role in fueling the most pressing crisis of our time. It raises the question of the right of present and future generations to an equitable future, while emphasizing that anthropogenic climate change is testing the limits of human health.

Types of climate litigation cases
According to the United Nations report, most ongoing climate litigation falls into one or more of six categories:

Cases relying on international law and human rights enshrined in national constitutions

Challenges for domestic non-implementation of climate-related laws and policies

Cases of keeping fossil fuels in the ground

Advocating for greater climate disclosures and an end to greenwashing

Corporate responsibility and liability for environmental damages

Addressing failures to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Earlier this year, a Montana court ruled that the state’s use of fossil fuels violated people’s constitutional rights. In Austria, 12 children under the age of 16 argued that the government needed to tighten its climate targets. Vanuatu students are engaged in a legal battle at the world’s highest international court, calling on the chambers to uphold countries’ responsibilities to tackle “climate change and other parts of the environment for present and future generations”. Enact in law.

The implications and legitimacy of youth-led climate trials are unclear, but experts acknowledge that the lawsuits are changing the landscape of climate litigation: unchecked carbon emissions by people. Violates fundamental rights, threatens young people’s claim to a healthy future, while also endangering climate science. Litigation Center for Countering Misinformation and Denial. The UN report says that growing climate litigation is evidence of “the strong links between climate change and human rights”, which “increases accountability, transparency and justice for governments and corporations in climate change”. can lead to further mitigation and adaptation goals.”

A 23-year-old plaintiff, Nathan Baring, who fought a federal case in the US in 2015, told a media house: “Without [a trial], there can’t be justice because you can’t establish factual records and you can’t tell the sometimes blatant lies that the government is sharing. It is necessary.”

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