Six young Portuguese filed a case in court against 32 countries including all the European Union members, the UK, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey, citing the dangers of extreme temperatures and the lives lost due to climate change.
Claudia Duarte Agostinho, who is among six people said that she felt fear recalling the disaster of heatwave and fires in 2017 in her country that killed hundreds. "The wildfires made me really anxious about what sort of future I would have," she was quoted as saying on the BBC.
The 24-year-old Claudia, her 20-year-old brother Martim and her 11-year-old sister Mariana are among six young people who filed the case, maintaining that the countries are not taking sufficient action to tackle the problem of climate change and have failed to cut carbon emissions according to the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5C.
This case is set to be filed in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. If the filers are successful, it may become legally binding for governments.
In the case, the claimants stated that their fundamental human rights are being violated due to governments' reluctance to fight climate change, adding that they have already been experiencing significant impacts, especially because of extreme temperatures in Portugal forcing them to spend time indoors and restricting their ability to sleep, concentrate or exercise.
"I want a green world without pollution, I want to be healthy," says Mariana adding that "I'm in this case because I'm really worried about my future. I'm afraid of what the place where we live will look like."
According to Claudia, Mariana still gets scared when she hears helicopters flying above, which reminds her of the firefighters back in 2017.
"I think it is really amazing for Mariana to get involved in this case, to have such a conscience at her age," Claudia remarked.
"But it is also very worrying: Why does she need to think about these things? She should be playing with her friends and dancing to TikTok videos instead."
The attorneys of the case are likely to take a position that the current policies of these countries would cause the world 3C of global warming by the end of the century.
"It's catastrophic heating," said Gearóid Ó Cuinn, director of Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) that is supporting the applicants.
"Without urgent action by the governments, the youth applicants involved in this case face unbearable heat extremes that'll harm their health and their wellbeing. We know that the governments have it within their power to do much more to stop this, but they are choosing not to act," he noted.
A study conducted published in the Lancet 2021 found that anxiety due to climate change and concerns of insufficient action by the governments were prevalent in young people as it is limiting their daily lives.
In response, the governments responded that the claimants did not clarify how they suffered as a direct consequence of climate change or the Portuguese wildfires, adding in the claim that there is no evidence that climate change posed an immediate risk to human life or health.
"These six young people from Portugal, who are ordinary individuals concerned about their future, will be facing 32 legal teams, hundreds of lawyers representing governments whose inaction is already harming them," said Gearóid Ó Cuinn.
"So this is a real David vs. Goliath case that is seeking a structural change to put us on a much better track in terms of our future."
Claudia noted winning this case would mean there would finally be hope. "It would mean that people are really listening to us and that they are as worried as we are."
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