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“This case is unprecedented in its scale and its consequence.”
Six young people are preparing to appear at the European court of human rights to try to compel 32 nations to rapidly escalate their emissions reductions in the world’s largest climate legal action to date.
Aged from 11 to 24, the six Portuguese claimants, say they were driven to act by their experiences in the wildfires that ripped through the Leiria region in 2017, killing 66 people and destroying 20,000 hectares of forest.
After another summer in which wildfires raged across Portugal, Greece, Spain, Croatia and Italy, the young people will argue in the grand chamber of the Strasbourg court in 13 days’ time that the 32 European nations’ policies to tackle global heating are inadequate and in breach of their human rights obligations.
Crowdfunded by people around the world, who have donated more than £100,000, they are seeking a binding ruling from the judges to force the countries to rapidly escalate their emissions reductions in what would be a historic milestone in climate litigation.
“This case is unprecedented in its scale and its consequence. Never before have so many countries had to defend themselves in front of any court anywhere in the world,” said Gearóid Ó Cuinn, of Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), which is supporting the claimants.
One of the claimants, André dos Santos Oliveira, 15, said: “These European governments are failing to protect us. We are living in the face of climate impacts across Europe. In Portugal this summer we experienced heatwaves which are getting worse and worse. Our ability to do anything, to live our lives, is becoming restricted. The climate crisis is affecting our physical health and our mental health. How could you not be scared?”