Groundbreaking climate case involving children to be heard by European Court tomorrow
STRASBOURG, 26 Sept 2023 – Six Portuguese children and young people – aged between 11 and 24 – will have a landmark case heard by the European Court of Human Rights tomorrow in a historic opportunity to hold governments to account for their failure to meet their climate commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement, said Save the Children.
The hearing of the Duarte Agostinho case - the first climate change case ever brought before the Court[i] and the first against so many states - will take place on Wednesday 27 September, in a milestone moment for children’s rights and the planet. Save the Children submitted an official third-party intervention to the Court in May 2021, and has watched the progress of the case closely since.
In the case, the six young applicants - André (15), Catarina (23), Cláudia (24), Mariana (11), Martim (20) and Sofia (18) - argue that 32 European countries are failing to take adequate measures to keep global warming below 1.5°C and are therefore failing to meet commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement. They also argue that the inaction of the countries threatens their rights to life and to a healthy, protected environment, as guaranteed under European law.
The case was filed in September 2020 and was at the time the first climate change action brought before the European Court of Human Rights. If successful, countries will be legally bound to take more action to address the climate crisis. The Court granted the case a priority status and deferred it to the Grand Chamber of the Court due to the importance of the issues raised.
Save the Children’s intervention speaks to the specific vulnerability of children to the effects of the climate crisis and outlines the impact of climate change on children’s right to safety, health, education and a prosperous future.
Existing Save the Children research shows that a child born in 2020 will experience on average nearly seven times as many heatwaves during their lifetime as their grandparents’ generation. The rights of children must be protected immediately, given the systemic threat posed by climate change and its severe impact on all children, and particularly the children impacted by inequality and discrimination. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child also recently established that inaction by governments and businesses to address the environmental crisis constitutes a child rights violation.
Ulrika Cilliers, Global Director of Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children, said:
“Children are on the frontlines of the climate crisis, so it is essential they have platforms to voice their concerns and hold those responsible to account. We support the power of children leading the way on climate action. We stand with Sofia, Catarina, Cláudia, André, Mariana and Martim as they now have their concerns heard by the European Court of Human Rights.
“Despite the catastrophic implications of the climate crisis on children’s rights, and the growing global movement of children calling for ambitious climate action, children are conspicuously absent from climate discussions, commitments, and policies.
“The world must recognize the legitimacy and power of children’s voices and their leadership in the climate movement. Governments need to establish child-friendly methods to facilitate children’s role in climate policy making, and their suggestions must be acted upon.
“The climate crisis is truly a child rights crisis. Without sufficient action children’s survival, development, environment and education are at grave risk.”
Save the Children is 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 QC and Ravi Mehta of Blackstone Chambers and Emma-Louise Fenelon of 1 Crown Office Row.
Notes to editors:
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 youth. 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 (15), Catarina (23), Cláudia (24), Mariana (11), Martim (20) and Sofia (18). 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.
[i] When this case was first brought to the Court in 2020 it was the first for a climate change related case, but it has taken a few years to get to the hearing stage. There have since been other cases.
For further enquiries or interview requests please contact:
- Daphnee Cook in Nairobi: Daphnee.Cook@savethechildren.org ;
- Emily Wight in London: Emily.Wight@savethechildren.org ;
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