6 young activists battle 32 European nations in court over climate change
Unprecedented case at European Court of Human Rights could force nations to do more to reduce carbon emissions
By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - Six young Portuguese climate activists are arguing in front of the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday that 32 European nations are infringing on their human rights by continued inaction against climate change.
The six activists call it a “David vs. Goliath fight” that “has the potential to change the future of how governments deal with the climate crisis,” according to the organization Youth4climatejustice.
In an unprecedented international case, the activists, aged 11 to 24, claim that the forest fires that have occurred in Portugal every year since 2017 are a result of global warming and have negatively impacted their health.
They also say they have experienced disrupted sleep patterns, allergies and respiratory problems, all aggravated by the sweltering heat.
According to Portugal’s National Institute of Sea and Atmosphere, 2022 was the hottest year in mainland Portugal since 1931, with a total of six heat waves. At the same time, 80% of the mainland was deemed to be in “extreme severe drought.”
Two activists are also arguing that climate disruptions are causing powerful storms that are putting their home, near the sea in Lisbon, at risk.
They also say they are experiencing anxiety due to natural disasters and that the terror of spending their whole lives in an increasingly warm environment is affecting them and any future families they might have.
All of this, the activists argue, demonstrates that the 32 states are failing to comply with their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically through violating their right to life, right to respect for private and family life, and by discriminating against their generation, which is set to feel the effects of climate change more than older demographics.
They first filed the historic case in September 2020.
The ruling will be made at a later stage. The Strasbourg court’s rulings are legally binding on member countries, and those who do not follow judgments can face hefty fines.
In a similarly groundbreaking case in the American state of Montana, a judge ruled in favor of activists last month who said state officials were violating their right to a healthy environment.
The case being brought forward by the Portuguese activists is the first of its kind at an international level.
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