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Landmark David v Goliath Youth Climate Case

In an “unprecedented” climate change case, six young people (aged 11 to 24) from areas in Portugal affected by heat waves and wildfires have taken 32 European governments to court, arguing that the countries’ failure to take swift action on the climate crisis violated their human rights. They are not seeking financial compensation - they simply want world leaders to do more to address climate issues.


Wild forest fire

The case has started in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and is the largest climate suit ever heard by the ECHR. A 2021 Lancet study found that climate anxiety and dissatisfaction with government responses to climate change were widespread in children and young people across the world, and this court case is another manifestation of young people standing up to fight - because the grown-ups in charge aren't doing enough to solve the problem.


“This is truly a David and Goliath case, that’s unprecedented in its scale (and) its potential impacts,” Gearóid Ó Cuinn, director of Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), a nonprofit that has supported the claimants’ case, told CNN. “Never before have so many states had to defend themselves in front of anywhere in the world.”


The argument by the claimants is about the named countries’ inaction on climate change, which they say threatens their rights to life and physical and mental well-being, Reuters reported. The named countries all 27 European Union member states, plus Switzerland, Norway, Britain, Russia and Turkey.


If the ECHR upholds the complaint, national courts could order governments to speed up their timelines for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The national courts would then be responsible for enforcing the rulings, Reuters reported.

 
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