Juliane Kippenberg and Katharina Rall of the Human Rights Watch write for Euronews about a case by four Portuguese children and two young adults before the European Court of Human Rights against 33 governments (all EU states as well as Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom).
The Portuguese plaintiffs argue that these governments bear responsibility for heatwaves and forest fires because of their failure to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The children and young adults argue that this negligence is interfering with their right to life and posing harm to their physical and mental wellbeing.
Europe, and especially southern Europe is at a great risk of suffering extreme heat, water scarcity, drought, forest fires, and agricultural losses in the future if the European governments do not significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the European Commission’s recent study found.
The children and young adults have also pointed out that they are victims of discrimination as they have more years to live than older generations and will therefore experience the worst effects of the climate change.
The lawsuit is still in its early stages, but the court has decided to fast-track the case and has rejected the 33 accused governments’ request to reconsider the assessment.
The assessment of whether individual governments have done enough to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5°C, in line with their commitment in the Paris Agreement is suggested to be monitored by the Climate Action Tracker – an independent scientific analysis that tracks assessments of a country’s emissions reduction target.
All respondent governments’ status at Climate Action Tracker is, at the moment, either “insufficient” or “critically insufficient”. The young plaintiffs say that a government should have to prove that its efforts are sufficient, or otherwise be presumed not to have met its obligations to protect the rights to life and bodily integrity, among other rights, under the European Convention of Human Rights. By improving their status on the Climate Action Tracker, the governments can prove that they are protecting children’s rights from the worst impacts of the climate change.