European Court of Human Rights embraces case charging that climate change violates children’s human rights

Health

The European Court of Human Rights has accepted — and fast-tracked — a case asserting that climate change violates children’s human rights. The lawsuit, filed by Portuguese youth Sofia and André Oliveira and four other young people, argues that the governments of the 33 European countries have not taken sufficient action to prevent the impact of climate change, thus violating their citizens’ human rights.

The case is the first of its kind to be filed at the European Court of Human Rights, and the court has granted it priority status. Only 15% of the cases received last year made it to this point. Should the court decide in favor of the Portuguese children, it could require national governments in Europe to take more meaningful steps to reduce their carbon emissions.

The United States, in contrast, has rebuffed climate change cases from young people. In January of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the most prominent American climate lawsuit to date, which had been filed by 21 young Americans, saying the issue was not a matter for the courts.