Amicus curiae to the ECHR against States for the Climate Crisis

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has accepted the amicus curiae brief of the Observatorio DESC together with the ESCR-Net in the Duarte Agostinho case. The case is a lawsuit brought by Portuguese youth between 9 and 22 years of age against 33 European states for their obligation to take urgent measures to alleviate the climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has accepted the amicus curiae brief of the Observatori DESC together with the ESCR-Net in the Duharte Agostinho case. This is a lawsuit brought by six Portuguese youths between 9 and 22 years old against 33 European states for their obligation to take urgent measures to alleviate the climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions.

It was in September 2020 that this potentially strategic litigation for the DESCAs was initiated. The lawsuit, filed by a group of Portuguese youth and several organisations grouped in the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), confronts the future of youth with the states responsible for taking action on the environmental disaster that today puts it at risk. This could be the first ruling of the European Court that requires countries to protect the environment as an indispensable element for the full exercise of human rights.

They claim, as does the recently submitted amicus brief of the ESCR Network, that the lack of action by states is increasing the climate emergency to the point that it directly threatens the right to life and integrity.

Thus, the struggle that young activists around the world are waging to denounce the climate emergency and the urgency of putting in place mechanisms to stop it, takes on a new dimension. The group promoting this legal battle has a website where they present the lawsuit and themselves in depth. In this way, contrary to the idea that it is an idealistic lawsuit, any reader can understand that what they have in abundance is realism and awareness of how the current changes in the climate system are generating situations of anguish and uncertainty for young people.

Martím, one of the plaintiffs who has just turned 18, tells how during the forest fires that hit his region in 2017 he saw his school closed for days and how the flames almost turned his house to ashes. The youngest member of this group, Mariana, at just 9 years old, wonders what the future holds if, during her estimated lifetime, the global temperature will rise by around 4ºC. One of the variables is that Portugal will become accustomed to long heat waves above 40°C, which would mean immense changes in agricultural and economic organisation that no country seems to be taking action against.

The legal demand for accountability of which this litigation may be the vanguard is a way to protect the environmental rights of all societies. We at the Observatori DESC join forces in this battle and celebrate the courage of Catarina, Claudia, Martim, Mariana, Sofia, André and all the organisations and individuals who are making the fight for climate justice a reality.
 

The organisations involved

The organisations participating in the amicus curiae are: Al-Haq, ALTSEAN-Burma, Center for the Study of Law, Justice and Society - Dejusticia, Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ), Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida (CADV), European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), FIAN International, Fédération Internationale des ligues des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH), Global Initiative for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR), Human Rights Action (HRA), International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law, Layla Hughes, Minority Rights Group International (MRG), Observatori DESC and Habitat International Coalition Latin America Office (HIC-AL). The ESCR-Net secretariat coordinated the presentation.

The amicus in the Duarte Agostinho case is available in English.

Multimedia

Information

Start date
Thursday, 6 May, 2021
Court

European Human Rights Tribunal (EHRC)