Climate Health Pharma

Strasbourg Court begins hearing on climate charges against 33 nations

Thirty-three governments got dragged to the Strasbourg Court by six Portugal adolescents, who argued the states were acting slowly against climate change.

HQ Team

September 27, 2023: Thirty-three governments got dragged to the Strasbourg Court by six Portugal adolescents, who argued the states were acting slowly against climate change.

The adolescents, six young women and two men aged between 11 and 24 years of age came from regions in Portugal which was swept by wildfires and heatwaves.

The European Court of Human Rights, also known as the Strasbourg Court, began hearing the case on September 27, 2023.

It is being heard by the court’s General Chamber, where a case on referral does not include any judges who previously sat in the Chamber that first examined the case.

European Convention

The applicants complain that the 33 States concerned are failing to comply with their “positive obligations” under the right to life and right to respect for private and family life of the European Convention on Human Rights.

They argue that the convention must be read in light of their undertakings under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a court statement.

They claim that the lack of adequate measures to limit global emissions constitutes a breach of the States’ obligations.

“The case concerns the greenhouse gas emissions from 33 Member States, which in the applicants’ view contribute to the phenomenon of global warming resulting, among other things, in heatwaves affecting the applicants’ living conditions and health,” according to the statement.

Forest fires

The applicants claim that the forest fires that have occurred in Portugal each year since 2017 are a direct result of global warming. 

They allege a risk to their health on account of these fires and assert that they have already experienced disrupted sleep patterns, allergies and respiratory problems, which are aggravated by the hot weather.

Two applicants stated that climate disruption was causing very powerful storms in winter and maintained that their house, which is situated near the sea in Lisbon, is potentially at risk of damage from the storms.

“The applicants also assert that they experience anxiety caused by these natural disasters and by the prospect of spending their whole lives in an increasingly warm environment, affecting them and any future families they might have,” according to the statement.

‘Unprecedented in scale’

The case was filed in September 2020 against the 28 EU member states as well as Britain, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey. The European Court of Human Rights is an international court of the Council of Europe that interprets the European Convention on Human Rights.

The applicants alleged a violation of one of the articles in the convention and argued that “global warming affects their generation particularly and that, given their age, the interference with their rights is greater than in the case of older generations,” according to the statement.

The Global Legal Action Network, which is supporting the case, stated that the hearing would take place before 22 judges and “ will be unprecedented in scale.” 

“The case of the ‘youth-Applicants’ is simple: time is rapidly running out to safeguard their futures. European governments have a legal duty to take far more radical and urgent action to slash greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a GLAN statement.

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