9 April 2024 - Switzerland

Duarte Agostinho ECHR case: disappointing outcome for the six young applicants’ access to justice

Save the Children International press release


Duarte Agostinho ECHR case: disappointing outcome for the six young applicants’ access to justice but children should not lose hope following Court’s landmark ruling against Switzerland

STRASBOURG, 9 April 2024 – The decision made today by the European Court of Human Rights that the Duarte Agostinho case brought by six young Portuguese nationals was inadmissible is a disappointing outcome for the children, Save the Children said. However, the ruling issued at the same time by the Court in the KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz case is a win for all generations, the child rights organization added.

According to Save the Children, states must protect children’s rights immediately, given the systemic threat posed by climate change and its severe impact on all children, particularly those impacted by inequality and discrimination.

In the first of the two cases, the children and young people argued that Portugal and 31 other European countries are failing to take adequate measures to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees C and are therefore failing to meet commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement. They also argued that inaction by these countries to limit warming temperatures threatens the right to life and a protected, healthy environment, as guaranteed under European law.

The climate crisis is a child rights crisis, that hurts children first and worst, Save the Children said. It submitted an official third-party intervention in this case to the Court in May 2021, emphasising the unique and heightened vulnerability of children to the effects of the climate crisis and outlining the devastating impact of climate change on children’s right to safety, health, education and a prosperous future.

Analysis by Save the Children last week found that half the world’s out-of-school children live in countries most vulnerable to climate change, with extreme heat recently forcing schools to close in South Sudan and the Philippines.

But Save the Children said another landmark ruling by the European Court of Human Rights today in the case of KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz against Switzerland should give hope to child campaigners, for two key reasons. Firstly, the Court declared that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights encompasses a duty for states to act in a timely and appropriate way to mitigate the serious adverse effects of climate change on lives, health, well-being and quality of life. Inadequate national climate policies and actions are therefore a breach of human rights, including children’s rights.  Secondly, the Court recognised that immediate action must be taken to avoid “a disproportionate burden on future generations”, acknowledging the threat posed by climate change to children’s rights.

Ulrika Cilliers, Global Director of Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children, said:

“Children around the world are demanding change – and action is not being taken quickly enough. Children are the least responsible for the damage caused by climate change, yet this global injustice affects every aspect of their lives, whether it’s having enough food to eat, having a roof over their head or being able to go to school.

“The science is clear: if we limit warming temperatures to 1.5 Celsius, children will experience fewer extreme weather events that have the potential to damage and disrupt their lives. 

“Despite today’s disappointing outcome, we stand with André, Catarina, Cláudia, Mariana, Martim and Sofia as well as other children and young people pushing for action to protect their rights, lives and futures from the multiple risks brought about by climate change. It is critical that children and young people, who are leading the way in the fight against the climate crisis, are not deterred from taking action. Adults need to ensure they have safe and meaningful platforms to influence change, and act on their recommendations. Governments need to act now. The lives, rights and futures of children depend on it.”


 Save the Children was advised in relation to its third-party intervention on a pro bono basis by the law firm Hausfeld & Co. LLP, alongside a team of barristers comprising Tim Otty KC and Ravi Mehta of Blackstone Chambers and Emma-Louise Fenelon of 1 Crown Office Row.


Notes to editors:

(1)   When this case was first brought to the Court in 2020 it was the first for a climate change related case, but following an expedited procedure the case was heard in September 2023. There have since been other climate change related cases before the Court.  The Court has handed down judgment in two other cases on the same date: (i) KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland and (ii) Carême v. France


About the European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights is an international court within the Council of Europe based in Strasbourg, France.  It rules on applications alleging violations of civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights against any of the 46 States parties to that Convention, such as the application brought by the six Portuguese children and young people. Its judgments are binding on the countries concerned and have led governments to change their legislation and practices in a wide range of areas.

About Save the Children’s intervention

The European Court of Human Rights can allow third parties to intervene in its cases. This allows parties with relevant experience and expertise to assist the Court in its decision making. An intervener is neither an applicant nor a respondent in the application.

In this case, the Court granted Save the Children’s request to provide written observations about the relationship between climate change and children’s rights.

About the case

The case is Duarte Agostinho & 5 Others v Portugal & 31 Others, more information can be found here.

The case is brought by six young people from Portugal: André , Catarina , Cláudia , Mariana , Martim  and Sofia . More details about the applicants can be found here.

The case was originally filed against all 27 Member States of the EU plus Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Türkiye, Ukraine and the UK. The applicants have since withdrawn their case against Ukraine, so the respondent states are now 32.

Save the Children’s third-party intervention in full is available here.

In October 2020, the Court granted the case a priority status due to the importance and urgency of the issues raised.  In June 2022, the Court referred the case to a 17-judge “Grand Chamber” which only hears cases raising the most serious questions.  The main hearing took place in September 2023.




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