Six youngsters challenge 32 countries over climate crisis

Lisbon, Sep 27 (EFE).- Six Portuguese youngsters, among them two minors, were scheduled to sit Wednesday before the European Court of Human Rights, where they have taken 32 countries over their climate inaction in a landmark case.

They have brought the European Union’s 27 member states before the court, along with the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Turkey, after the devastating fires Portugal suffered in 2017.

“We were afraid, but we do not regret it,” said Claudia, 24, Martim, 20, Mariana Agostinho, 11, Sofia, 18 Andre Oliveira, 15 and Catarina Mota, 23.

“We were afraid, because we are nervous, but we never regretted (filing the lawsuit), because we know that we are fighting for our lives,” said Claudia in an interview with EFE conducted by email through a communication agency supporting them.

Four of the young people live in the Leiria district, about 140 kilometers north of Lisbon and one of the areas affected by the wave of fires in 2017, which killed more than 100 people in different parts of Portugal.

The tragedy motivated the six to take those countries to court for not doing enough to protect them from the climate crisis.

In their lawsuit, they said some of their rights have been violated, such as the right to life or to be free from torture and degrading or inhuman treatment, included in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Another of the complainants, Catarina, said in the same interview that they have chosen to sue those states because the consequences of the climate crisis are only going to worsen and they need governments to act to protect them now.

“We can’t sleep because it’s too hot, we can’t go out and we suffer from anxiety about the weather,” Catarina said.

Faced with the challenge ahead, they said they are optimistic and that a win in Strasbourg, France, would be of “enormous” impact.

“Thirty two governments will be forced to drastically reduce their emissions,” Claudia said.

The court’s resolutions are binding, so if they are right, countries will have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

It is the only thing they demand in their complaint, since they have not asked for any type of financial compensation. The second youngest of the plaintiffs, Andre, told EFE he is “very excited.”

“It means a lot to us that the case goes to the (court) It’s a big step and I’m very excited. I think it’s going to go very well,” he said.

The plaintiffs have had the support of the non-profit association Global Legal Action Network, with funds from donations and a crowdfunding campaign.

They said they hope their example will motivate other young people to take legal action over climate. Martim said there are kids such as them worried about their future and prepared to fight.

“In South Korea, Russia, Vanuatu and other countries,” he said, “many are using the power of the law to hold governments accountable.”

Although justice may represent a limit in the fight against the climate crisis, Martim said it is likely that more and more cases will arise in the world due to the ravages of global warming.

“I tell other young people ‘the planet is changing, but you are changing and you can change the planet,” he said.

Two other climate-related cases have already been heard before the same European court, although not of the same magnitude: a lawsuit against Switzerland presented by an association of older women and another against France promoted by a Swiss parliamentarian.

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