Youth v Europe: An “unprecedented” climate trial begins in the Court of Rights

September 27 (Reuters) – Six young people from areas of Portugal devastated by forest fires and heatwaves will sue 32 European governments on Wednesday over what they see as climate inaction, saying countries’ failure to cut emissions quickly enough is a violation of their human dignity. rights.

The case – filed in September 2020 against the EU’s 27 member states plus Britain, Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Turkey – is the largest climate case ever heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.

With support from the Britain-based Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), the Portuguese applicants, aged between 11 and 24, are seeking a legally binding decision that would force states to act.

A ruling in this case is expected in the first half of 2024. If the complaint is upheld, it could result in national courts ordering governments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions responsible for climate change faster than currently planned.

Gerry Liston, one of GLAN’s lawyers, said that if the case is successful it will be up to national courts to enforce the rulings and they will be provided with a road map to ensure effective implementation.

Applicants will argue that climate change threatens their rights including life, physical and mental well-being.

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One of the six, 15-year-old Andre Oliveira, had previously told Reuters that their goal was to force governments to “do what they promised,” referring to the 2015 Paris agreement to cut emissions to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Ideally 1.5C. Current policies will fail to achieve either goal, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Without urgent action to reduce emissions, (the place) where I live will soon become an unbearable furnace,” another applicant, Martim Agostinho, 20, said in a statement.

Agostinho and three other applicants are from the Leiria region in central Portugal, where two forest fires killed more than 100 people in 2017.

Dozens of lawyers

More than 80 lawyers are expected to represent the accused states in court, while the applicants will be represented by six, resulting in what GLAN described in a statement as a hearing “unprecedented in scale.”

Liston admitted that “dealing with legal teams from over 30 countries that are very well-resourced” will not be easy.

The Portuguese legal team submitted to the court that it was committed to fighting climate change and that the plaintiffs had failed to provide evidence of its direct impact on them.

Britain said the case should be dismissed because it was “inadmissible” on various grounds, including jurisdiction.

Climate-related litigation is increasingly occurring in Europe and beyond.

Last month, a judge in Montana, US, issued a historic win for young plaintiffs in a climate change case. In addition to Wednesday’s youth case, two other climate cases are pending before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

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Reporting by Catarina Demoni in Lisbon – Prepared by Mohammed for the Arab Bulletin Edited by Aislinn Laing and Alex Richardson

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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A multimedia correspondent based in Portugal reporting on politics, economics, environment and daily news. Previous experience in local journalism in the UK, co-founded a project telling the stories of Portuguese speakers living in London, and edited a youth-led news website.

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