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JUSTICE

Portuguese children take 33 European countries to court over climate crisis

Environmentalists of the Fridays for Future movement hold up a cardboard sign reading "No to oil drilling, yes to the future" on September 25, 2020, in Lisbon, Portugal.
Environmentalists of the Fridays for Future movement hold up a cardboard sign reading "No to oil drilling, yes to the future" on September 25, 2020, in Lisbon, Portugal. AFP - PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA

The European Court of Human Rights on Monday ordered 33 European countries to respond to accusations – levelled by six young Portuguese campaigners – that they’re “fueling the climate crisis”.

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The crowdfunded case, filed two months ago with the support of the Global Legal Action Network, a non-profit known as GLAN, hopes to elicit a landmark judgment on climate change that would legally oblige the countries to cut their emissions.

The plaintiffs are four children and two young adults, aged between 8 and 21, who argue that inaction on climate issues is jeopardising their futures and their physical and mental wellbeing.

The countries’ alleged failures include domestic emissions, exporting fossil fuels extracted from their territories, importing goods containing carbon and allowing companies to contribute to emissions abroad.

“These brave young people have cleared a major hurdle in their pursuit of a judgment which compels European governments to accelerate their climate mitigation efforts,” said Gerry Liston, a legal officer at GLAN.

The case comes the same year that Portugal – described by the policy institute Climate Analytics as a climate change “hotspot” – recorded its hottest July in nine decades. The country is expected to be increasing hit by extreme weather.

The 27 EU countries, the UK, Norway, Switzerland, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine have until 23 February to answer the complaint.

The case comes as EU leaders rush to meet an end-of-year deadline to agree measures that would toughen the bloc’s emissions-reduction targets for 2030, as it seeks to become the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.

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