Six individuals from regions in Portugal devastated by wildfires and extreme heat will be filing a lawsuit against 32 European governments on Wednesday, alleging that their lack of action on climate change constitutes a violation of their fundamental human rights.
In September 2020, a case was brought against 27 EU member states, as well as Britain, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, and Turkey. This is the biggest climate case ever to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.
Assisted by GLAN, a UK organization, the Portuguese individuals, ranging in age from 11 to 24, are pursuing a legally-binding ruling that would compel governments to take action.
The court is expected to make a decision on the case by mid-2024. If the complaint is found to be valid, it may lead to national courts ordering governments to accelerate their reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, which are believed to contribute to climate change.
According to Gerry Liston, a lawyer for GLAN, if the case is successful, it will be the responsibility of national courts to carry out the rulings. They will be given a plan to ensure that enforcement is carried out effectively.
Candidates will make a case that their rights, such as the right to life and physical and mental health, are at risk due to climate change.
One of the six, 15-year-old Andre Oliveira, previously told Reuters their goal was to force governments to “do what they promised they would do”, referring to the 2015 Paris Agreement to cut emissions to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and ideally 1.5C. Current policies would fail to meet either goal, according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“Without urgent action to cut emissions, (the place) where I live will soon become an unbearable furnace,” another applicant, 20-year-old Martim Agostinho, said in a statement.
Mr. Agostinho and three other candidates hail from Leiria, a central region of Portugal, where two wildfires claimed the lives of over 100 individuals in 2017.
DOZENS OF LAWYERS
Over 80 attorneys are anticipated to appear in court to defend the accused nations, while six attorneys will represent the applicants. This will result in a hearing that GLAN has deemed as “unprecedented in size,” according to a statement.
Mr. Liston recognized that it would be a difficult task to confront the legal teams of more than 30 countries with significant resources.
The legal representatives for Portugal have stated in court that their country is dedicated to combatting climate change and that the claimants have not presented proof of how it directly affects them.
The British government contended that the case should be dismissed due to being “inadmissible” for multiple reasons, such as lack of jurisdiction.
The number of climate-related lawsuits in Europe and other regions is increasing.
Last month, a Montana judge ruled in favor of young plaintiffs in a significant climate change lawsuit in the United States. Along with the recent youth case, there are also two other climate-related cases awaiting a decision from the ECHR’s Grand Chamber. – Reuters