BBC have reported that a group of six young Portuguese individuals have taken 32 governments to court, including Malta, for their lack of action in combating climate change. Now, three siblings who form part of the group: Claudia aged 24, Martim aged 20 and Mariana aged 11 spoke out about their terrifying experience in 2017, when wildfires in Portugal made them doubt their future.
Claudia recollected feeling fearfulduring the extreme heatwaves which resulted in fires spreading across her home country. These fires killed more than 100 people. The youngsters, aged from 11 to 24, filed the first of its kind case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg and are not after any monetary compensation. The countries involved are the 27 members of the EU as well as Norway, Russia, Switzerland, the UK and Turkey.
They argued that forest fires have occurred in Portugal each year since 2017 as a result of global warming. Therefore, they cited a breach to their Fundamental Human Rights, also including the right to life, privacy, family life and to be free from discrimination, due to governments’ reluctance to fight climate change.
Additionally, they stated that they have already suffered from other impacts on their daily lives. These impacts include spending time indoors and restricting their ability to sleep, concentrate or exercise. Others also claimed to suffer from eco-anxiety, allergies and respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Mariana expressed that she wants to be healthy. “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.” Claudia on the other hand, while in awe of her 11-year-old sister’s will power to change the world is simultaneously concerned about Mariana having to trouble herself with such serious issues. “She should be playing with her friends and dancing to TikTok videos instead.”
The lawyers representing the young activists will be arguing in court about the drastic increase in temperatures, describing it as “catastrophic heating.”
“Without urgent action by the Government, the youth applicants involved in this case face unbearable heat extremes that will 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,” says Gearóid Ó Cuinn, director of Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) that is currently supporting the group.
In 2021, a Lancet study based on a survey of 10,000 children and young people aged 16-25 in 10 countries, found that climate anxiety and dissatisfaction with government action against climate change was widespread in these age group and impacted their daily functioning.
On the other hand, the Governments argued that the claimants have not provided any concrete evidence to show how they were directly impacted by climate change or the Portuguese wildfires in 2017.
So much so that they argue that there is no evidence that indicates immediate risk to human life or health caused by climate change.
Dunja Mijatovic, The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, told BBC that it is an alarm to member states and international organisations and that they have a chance to show that they care, “and its not just words on paper.”
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