The maxi-lawsuit brought by six young Portuguese against 32 governments for “inaction” on the climate has begun before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Among the countries involved there are also Italy and Russia, with the latter not appearing in court for the hearing. This is the first climate case to be filed at the European Court of Human Rights and the largest of a total of three cases on the topic that the Court is hearing. The idea of the six boys started six years ago, in 2017, following the devastating fires that burned thousands of hectares in Portugal, causing hundreds of deaths.
The applicants, aged between 11 and 24, accuse the 27 European states, Russia, Turkey, Switzerland, Norway and the United Kingdom of not respecting the commitments undertaken under the Paris climate agreement of 2015 aimed at limiting the increase in temperatures. Also following the hearing were some of the elderly Swiss women who on March 29 filed a complaint against their country for not having done enough for the environment. Also present was a group of students from the Federico II University of Naples. On the occasion of the hearing, placards in support of the young Portuguese appeared outside the Court in various languages. The one in Italian read ‘what is more beautiful than the hope of young people who fight for their future’. Before ruling on the merits, the Court will first examine the admissibility of the appeal, which came before the Strasbourg judges in 2020 and benefited from priority treatment. If the dossier is deemed admissible, the decision could arrive in 2024 at best.
For Alison Macdonald, the British lawyer of the six young Portuguese men, the Court of Human Rights is the only remedy against the climate catastrophe that looms if states do not take the necessary measures to combat climate change. Macdonald spoke during the hearing in the Grand Chamber of the Court stating that “what we seek with this appeal is to define the duties that States have in the context of climate change”. According to the representatives of the governments, who intervened to defend themselves against the accusations, the young Portuguese have not respected the rules that the Strasbourg Court has established for accepting appeals and want to extend the concept of extra-territorial responsibility of the States beyond measure.