Six children & young people against 33 states for greenhouse gas emissions resulting to climate change: Forthcoming hearing before ECtHR

The case Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Others (application no. 39371/20), concerning 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 will be heard before ECtHR on 27 September 2023.

The applicants are Portuguese nationals aged between 11 and 24. 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. 

The fifth and sixth applicants stress that climate disruption is causing very powerful storms in winter and maintain 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. 

The applicants complain that the 33 States concerned are failing to comply with their positive obligations under Articles 2 (right to life) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the Convention, read in the light of their undertakings under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change (COP 21). They also raised an issue under Article 3 (prohibition of ill-treatment) of the Convention. 

The applicants further allege a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 2 and/or Article 8 of the Convention, arguing 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. They claim that the above-mentioned provisions of the Convention should be read in the light of Article 3 (1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

They also rely on the principle of intergenerational equity referred to in a number of international instruments including the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the Preamble to the Paris Agreement and the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

The applicants take the view that the member States have failed to fulfil their obligations under the above-mentioned provisions of the Convention, read in particular in the light of the international climate treaties, which require signatory States to take steps to adequately regulate their contributions to climate change. 

They claim that the lack of adequate measures to limit global emissions constitutes a breach of the States’ obligations. The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 7 September 2020. On 13 November 2020 the Governments concerned were given notice of the application, with questions from the Court. The Chamber also decided to deal with this case as a matter of priority, in accordance with Rule 41 of the Rules of Court. The Chamber to which the case had been allocated relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber on 28 June 2022 . (source: echr.coe.int/ photo: freepik.com)



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Editorial

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George Kazoleas, Lawyer

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