The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), based in Strasbourg, hosted on Wednesday the 27th the first and so far only hearing for the lawsuit filed against 32 European states (including Spain) by six young Portuguese people, between 11 and 24 years old. , due to the inaction of governments in the face of the climate crisis.
"What we have heard is very sad. Governments have just said that what is happening around us is not important. They are trying to minimize the impact of climate change on our human rights," said Cláudia Duarte (24) in a statement after the hearing. at the Court's headquarters in Strasbourg.
André Oliveira (15) agreed with Duarte and was "shocked" because countries try to "ignore the evidence and trivialize the damage that is already being faced." Oliveira explained that in heat episodes he has to limit the time he spends outside and has difficulty sleeping. "And thanks to the weak environmental policies of these countries, things are getting worse," he said.
The statements of the two young people came after the event in the Grand Chamber of the Court of hearing for this pioneering lawsuit, which accuses 32 European countries of attacking human rights due to the damage and threat to their living conditions created by the change. climate change and heat waves that cause greenhouse gas emissions.
The president of the Court, Siofra O'Leary, began the hearing by listing the names of the 32 countries cited in the lawsuit (there were 33 but it was finally withdrawn to Ukraine). Later, lawyers from both sides presented their respective points of view to the Court, in an intense clash that pitted six lawyers for the plaintiffs against 87 of the defendants, some of whom represented all governments and others only one.
The British lawyer Sudhanshu Swaroop, one of the lawyers who intervened on behalf of the 31 States that respond to the lawsuit (Russia does not), questioned the admissibility of the case by the ECtHR.
Swaroop stressed its view that the Portuguese plaintiffs are not under the jurisdiction of the other defendant states, but rather their protection is the responsibility of the Portuguese state. He also assured that the respective governments are committed to combating the climate crisis in an "effective" manner.
Another of the defendants' lawyers, the Portuguese Ricardo Matos, pointed out that the plaintiffs do not have the status of victims, since the damages they allege are abstract, and considered that the lawsuit is actually a "popular action" not acceptable by the ECtHR.
A member of the plaintiffs' legal team, Alyson, argued in favor of the extraterritoriality of the case because Portugal cannot effectively protect itself from the effects of the climate crisis. Thus, she pointed out that if she does not decide in favor of the plaintiffs the Court will send the message that it has no role in how the greatest crisis currently affecting Europe and the world is confronted.
Another of the plaintiffs' lawyers, Gearoid O'Cuinn, lamented in statements to Efe that some of the states, such as Ireland or Greece, presented arguments "that border on climate denialism," by questioning or trivializing the effects of climate change.
O'Cuinn explained that the ECHR's decision should arrive within between 9 and 18 months, but he hoped that it will be in the lower part of that period, because the Court "accelerated this case", with processing "in quick time." .
And he highlighted that a good part of today's arguments by the defendants will focus on technical issues, such as admissibility, because "Governments try to evade scrutiny and seek to separate admissibility from the merits of the case, which is what is important."
The lawsuit was filed in 2020 by young people (between 11 and 24 years old) from several areas of Portugal affected by a serious heat wave and forest fires in 2017, which caused 109 deaths and thousands of hectares burned.
The defendants are the 27 member states of the European Union, as well as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Turkey and Russia, making the case the largest related to climate change dealt with by the ECtHR.