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Climate change

Greta Thunberg files UN complaint against 5 countries, including France

Greta Thunberg at the UN, 23 Sept. 2019.
Greta Thunberg at the UN, 23 Sept. 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Greta Thunberg and 15 other young activists have filed a complaint at the United Nations against five countries, including France, for not doing enough to ward off global warming.

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The complaint accused Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey of failing to uphold their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed 30 years ago.

The complaint, filed by the 16-year-old Swedish activist and 15 other petitioners from 12 different countries and aged between eight and 17, accused the five countries of violating children's rights by failing to take adequate and timely action against climate change.

The five countries have been targeted because they are top global polluters that have also ratified a little-known "optional protocol" that allows children to file a complaint to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The largest polluters in the world – the United States, China and India – never ratified the protocol.

Every member of the United Nations except the United States has ratified the convention to protect the health and rights of children.

Emotional address to UN

The complaint was filed after Thunberg delivered a searing attack on world leaders for their slow response to climate change at a special session kicking off the UN General Assembly in New York.

The 16 young people were backed by the legal firm Hausfeld LLP and Earthjustice, an environmental law group.

France and Germany may have recently begun working to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, but have also played a large role historically in polluting the atmosphere, the law firm argued.

Lawyer Michael Hausfeld said that while the committee's recommendations are not legally binding, the 44 countries that ratified the protocol pledged to respect them. He said he hoped the recommendations would be made in the coming 12 months.

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