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Global Legal Action Network

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David vs.Goliath, six Portuguese youths are taking 32 states to the European Court of Human Rights

In a landmark legal case, six Portuguese youth, aged 11 to 25, have taken their fight for climate justice to the European Court of Human Rights. The complaint, filed against 32 countries, alleges that these nations have violated human rights by failing to take sufficient action to combat climate change, and it seeks an order requiring them to adopt more ambitious measures.

The complaint relies on several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), including Articles 2, 8, and 14. These articles protect the right to life, right to privacy, and right to be free from discrimination, respectively. The complainants argue that their right to life is threatened by climate change's effects, such as forest fires in Portugal. They also claim that their right to privacy includes their physical and mental well-being, which is jeopardised by extreme heat waves that force them to remain indoors. Furthermore, as young individuals, they assert that they are particularly vulnerable to the most severe consequences of climate change.
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Their demand is that the 32 countries, which include the 27 European Union countries plus Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom, drastically cut their planet-heating pollution and also force companies headquartered within their borders to cut emissions across their whole supply chains.

Last week, the hearing took place in Strasbourg at the European Court of Human Rights where the youth argued that a failure to tackle the accelerating climate crisis is breaching their human rights, including their rights to life and family life, to freedom from inhuman treatment and to freedom from discrimination on the basis of age. They are asking the court to rule that countries fueling the climate crisis have obligations to protect not only their own citizens but also those outside their borders.

This milestone case is the first climate lawsuit brought before the European Court of Human Rights and stands as the largest among the three climate-related lawsuits currently under its scrutiny.
The implications of this case are profound. A favourable outcome would compel nations to scale up their climate commitments and significantly support the prospects of similar climate litigation worldwide. Specifically, it would lend weight to arguments that countries bear human rights responsibilities to shield their citizens from the impacts of the climate crisis.
On the other hand, an adverse ruling by the Court could have detrimental consequences for other climate-related claims.
Described as an unparalleled "David and Goliath" scenario due to its unprecedented scale and potential repercussions, Gearóid Ó Cuinn, Director of Global Legal Action Network, which has provided support to the claimants, emphasised the historic nature of this case, showing that never before have numerous states simultaneously defended themselves on such a global stage.

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  • Christina Carlmark

    37 w

    Very important action by these youth!

    • johnte ndeto

      37 w

      Great job by the youths to stand firm for the good of climate by defending the same in court

      • Kevin

        37 w

        Climate justice should be enforced by all legal and government systems

        • Esther Wanjiku

          37 w

          The youth at the forefront is very inspiring

          • Saustine Lusanzu

            37 w

            Young people are taking the lead

            • walter lungayi

              38 w

              It is commendable that these Portuguese youths are using legal means to hold countries accountable for their lack of action. Climate change is a human rights issue, and it is crucial for nations to take more ambitious measures to combat it.

              • rosebellendiritu

                38 w

                May they be that voice,and may their voice be heard too so that the planet can get justice.

                • Tabitha Kimani

                  38 w

                  People have to demand for accelerated climate restoration actions and the respect and safeguarding of human rights.

                  • Elizabeth Gathigia

                    38 w



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