Portuguese schoolchildren “sue 47 European countries over climate change”

An extraordinary challenge laid down by schoolchildren from the fire-ravaged centre of Portugal is setting out to sue 47 European countries over their failure to tackle climate change.

Backed by British barristers, the crowdfunding bid was launched online today (Monday).

It is supported by the NGO Gobal Legal Action Network (Glan), writes the UK Guardian, and is seeking “an initial £35,000 to mount the case in the European Court of Human Rights”.

As the paper explains, the initiative is being lead by children whose boroughs saw the worst forest fires in living memory this summer – fires that killed 64 people, and “left hundreds injured”.

Platform CrowdJustice has “raised millions” in the past to help bring citizen-led cases to court.

This one will see lawyers trying to ensure that the countries being sued “significantly strengthen their emissions reduction policies and commit to keeping the majority of their existing fossil fuel reserves in the ground”, says the Guardian, quoting lead counsel Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers saying: “This case intends to build on the successes which have been achieved through climate change litigation across the world so far.

“It will be unique because it will be the first case in which multiple governments are brought before a court at the one time in relation to their failure to properly tackle climate change.

“Climate change poses a major and increasingly worsening threat to a number of human rights and governments in Europe are simply not doing enough to address it”.

The story, taken up by other UK papers, does not refer to Portugal’s ongoing debate over the rights and wrongs of pursuing gas and oil exploration in the context of climate change and the need to reduce emissions, but this case could not highlight the issue better.

Says the paper, “some experts have blamed the increase in forest fires in Europe on climate change”.

One of the children who is part of the group taking action told reporters:

“Climate change causes many problems, but if I had to name the ones that worry me the most, it would be the sea level rise, which leads to the destruction of shores and infrastructure such as dams, roads and houses, and also the increase in the number of forest fires that we’ve been observing lately – especially this summer, as the fires caused many deaths and left our country in mourning.”

Thus the plan to target Europe’s “major emitters” including UK, Ireland, Germany and France.

The 47 have been “collectively responsible for roughly 15% of global emissions”, says the Guardian, and hold a “significant proportion of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves”.

To access the crowdfunding initiative, click here:

Says the text online: “From Portland to Pakistan, citizens have been taking the climate change fight to the courtroom. Innovative legal arguments are being made before judges all over the world in an attempt to compel governments to take tougher action on climate change. And these arguments are winning”.

For now, the ‘back story’ on how schoolchildren from Leiria got in touch with top-flight climate change barristers is unclear, but it may come out via national media sources later this week.

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