Judges in Strasbourg have green-lit a landmark climate case that could hold governments accountable for moving too slowly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The European Court of Human Rights has told the governments of 33 industrialized countries to promptly respond to a climate lawsuit lodged by six youth campaigners in September, giving it priority status because of the "importance and urgency of the issues raised."
The young people, supported by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), allege the countries — which include Germany, the UK, Russia and Portugal — have failed to enact the emission cuts needed to protect their futures.
The case focuses on countries whose policies lawyers argue are too weak to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) Paris Agreement goal. They cite the country ratings of the Climate Action Tracker.
The plaintiffs range from age 8 to 21 and come from Lisbon and Leiria in Portugal. The case states climate change poses a rising threat to the six young people's lives and their physical and mental well-being. It invokes human rights arguments — including the right to life, a home and to family — as well as claiming discrimination.
The climate case is the first of its kind to be filed at the European Court of Human Rights.