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Portuguese youth vs 32 European nations in landmark climate case

A new legal battle has begun at the European Court of Human Rights, this time with claimants arguing discrimination. 

All European Union member states are listed among the defendants, in addition to Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Russia and Turkey. 

The youngest individual involved in brining the action is aged 11. Claimants say that inaction on the part of governments in response to the climate crisis amounts to discrimination against young people. The logic being that younger generations will feel the brunt of actions today taken today.

The lawsuit is supported by Global Legal Action Network, which has described the action as ‘truly a David and Goliath case’. 2017 wildfires that killed more than 100 people in Portugal sparked the decision to begin pursuing legal grounds for a case, with such events becoming more intense and regular in the years since.

Portugal was listed among the biggest victims of European wildfires in a recent study. According to the research, the estimated total loss of land alone from blazes in summer 2023 amounts to well over €3billion. This does not include property and possessions.

In addition, young people behind the ECHR case list exposure to extreme heat and associated problems with sleep and concentration, and overall anxiety about the climate crisis, as issues that have arisen due to negligence, inaction and ‘discrimination’ at a governmental level. 

The trial began on Wednesday 27th September and the verdict could represent another in a series of landmark legal rulings tied to the environment in recent months. These include a case in Montana, where the judge ruled in favour of young people arguing state government failure to provide a safe and healthy environment was illegal.

More on environmental law: 

Ethics and human rights could be banned from local authority decisions

International community weighs up ‘ecocide’ laws

Is ‘Youth v Montana’ climate court ruling really a landmark?

 

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