Portuguese youngsters sue European governments over emissions

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Oct 20, 2017
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Some of the youngsters are from Leiria, which has been ravaged by wildfires this year


A group of Portuguese youngsters are to sue European governments in a landmark lawsuit over the impact that climate change is having on their lives.

The seven claimants, who are between 11 and 18, are seeking a ruling to force 47 countries to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions. Some of them are from the Leiria region, which has been devastated by wildfires twice this year. 

They want the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to order the countries to keep remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

The group has the backing of the non-profit Global Legal Action Network (Glan) and a team of barristers from Garden Court Chambers in London.

While £20,000 has been crowdfunded to launch the case, lawyers said that the full names of the children were being withheld to protect them. 

“This is not about seeking damages,” Gearóid Ó Cuinn, the director of Glan, said. “This is about the future of children. The governments know the science. They know the risk. The governments are just slow to act. It’s like it was with big tobacco.”

The case seeks a ruling that a failure to slash emissions and switch from fossil fuels poses a significant threat to the group’s human rights, primarily the right to life.

Gerry Liston, the Glan legal officer, said that the European Court of Human Rights was being asked to determine emissions based on current climate science.

“Glan will work with civil society organisations throughout Europe to use our case to highlight the fact that unless governments urgently take much stronger action to prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions, it is only a matter of decades before we’ll be witnessing the catastrophic consequences of insufficient action,” he said.

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