Six young people bring lawsuit, claiming human rights violations due to climate change

The plaintiffs, all Portuguese citizens who range in age from 11 to 24, filed the lawsuit in light of deadly wildfires that have devastated their country every year since 2017. File photo by Tiago Petinga/EPA-EFE

Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Six young people are set to appear in a French court Wednesday to bring a lawsuit against 32 European nations, claiming the governments were violating their human rights by failing to mitigate climate change.

The landmark case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg could require all 27 European Union member states, as well as Britain, Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Turkey, to immediately start reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The court was expected to issue a ruling within months, with the decision being legally binding if it is proven that countries aren't doing enough to curtail global warming to a target goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next decade as set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Amnesty International filed the legal action alongside several other humanitarian organizations, asserting that policymakers had a duty to protect human rights through more robust climate efforts.

The plaintiffs are all Portuguese citizens, and range in age from 11 to 24, according to a statement from the group. They filed the lawsuit in light of deadly wildfires that have devastated the country every year since 2017.

The suit claims their individual lives have been continuously impacted by climate-related factors, including extreme heat and persistent air pollution.

"As in many other places, young people are leading the way and demonstrating that there are legal avenues through which climate justice can be achieved," said Mandi Mudarikwa, the chief litigator for Amnesty International. "This case is hugely significant but is only one of several underway to ensure that everyone's right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is protected."

The case, listed on the docket as Duarte Agostinho and others vs. Portugal and 31 states, alleges violations of four Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including Article 2, the right to life; Article 3, the right to be free from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment; Article 8, the right to privacy and family life; and Article 14, the right to be free from discrimination on the grounds of age.

By the time the youngest plaintiff turns 88 in 2100, the planet would be about 3 degrees hotter than current rates of global warming, according to the lawsuit.

Collectively, the group claims extreme heat has curtailed their ability to enjoy outdoor activities and to get comfortable rest at night.

In court papers, many in the group expressed anxiety about the long-term health of the planet, and argued they were not being afforded the opportunity for a normal life.

The Global Legal Action Network recently launched an international fundraiser to help pay legal fees for the group.

The case goes to trial the same week that Nissan announced it would sell only electric vehicles in Europe by 2030 despite British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announcing he would push a goal to ban sales of new non-electric vehicles back to 2035, in line with other nations.

The court was also due to issue rulings on two similar climate lawsuits filed in Switzerland and France which claimed that standing climate policies were failing to protect human rights.