A few minutes every morning is all you need.
Stay up to date on the world's Headlines and Human Stories. It's fun, it's factual, it's fluff-free.
On Wednesday, the European Court of Human Rights will be hearing arguments for a landmark lawsuit against a whopping 32 European countries. The plaintiffs in the case? Six young Portuguese climate activists between the ages of 11 and 24 – all who say that their human rights have been violated by the countries they’re suing. Europe has 50 countries, so they’re literally bringing over half of the continent to court.
These activists are accusing these countries of human rights offenses for not properly addressing climate change. This lawsuit is the first one filed to the European Court of Human Rights when it comes to climate change. This court was created to uphold the European Convention on Human Rights from 1953, which 47 European countries have agreed to.
It was the devastating 2017 wildfires that inspired these young people to act. "It was scary," explains 24-year-old nurse Claudia Agostinho, who was a teenager when the fires hit, killing over 100 people. "It was that fear and anxiety that pushed me to act.” It’s widely agreed by scientists that climate change increases the likelihood and severity of wildfires all over the world.
Last Month, the UN updated a treaty for protecting children's rights. It now includes a bit about how environmental damage, like what we’re dealing with from the climate crisis, is "a form of structural violence against children,” and it advises countries to give access to justice for children, giving them the power “to initiate proceedings themselves." This updated treaty could end up boosting the activists’ case in court.
Among the countries being sued are Greece, Ireland and Portugal, which will all have to defend themselves, arguing that climate change doesn’t threaten well-being. Greece’s government said that the effects of climate change "do not seem to directly affect human life or human health.” The six activists have already sent documents to the court to prove their own argument. If they win, the court’s rulings are binding to all 47 countries that have agreed to the convention, including the UK.
"If we win our case, governments that don't hold to their promises will be sanctioned – because people's lives are at risk," says 15-year-old André Oliveira, who’s also a part of the case.