Europe faces human rights test case – Climate Weekly

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André and Sofia Oliveira, two of the six Portuguese youth suing for more urgent climate action (Pic: Global Legal Action Network)


It’s not fair that children face frightening weather extremes because previous generations got hooked on fossil fuels.

That is easy to say. Whether there is a legal remedy is another matter.

Six Portuguese youth are not slamming the door and sulking, they are suing 33 countries for not cutting greenhouse gas emissions urgently enough.

The case, the first of its kind filed with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), could be thrown out on a technicality. That was the fate of the “People’s Climate Case” in the European General Court last year.

A few national courts have shown more appetite for holding governments to account. In July, Ireland’s supreme court ruled in favour of climate campaigners, the first to replicate Urgenda’s landmark win in the Netherlands. Norway’s supreme court agreed to hear a case on oil drilling in the Arctic, after two lower courts rejected calls for a ban.

Will ECHR give the kids a hearing, or take the easy way out?

This week’s stories…

…and climate conversations


Nearly 50 government ministers declared their intention to build back greener from the coronavirus pandemic at a virtual meeting convened by Japan.

Environment minister Shinjirō Koizumi went big on hydrogen, the emerging cleantech R&D priority among richer countries. It fell to the UN’s António Guterres, with his trademark directness, to remind the hosts to stop funding dirty old coal.

Energy Policy Tracker analysis shows the G20 and many of its members are spending more bailing out fossil fuels than spurring clean energy in their Covid-19 recovery packages.

‘Solidarity economy’

While the ministers compare their billions, indigenous women in Costa Rica fill sacks with fruit and vegetables to share with families struggling under pandemic restrictions.

Jocelyn Timperley visited the Cabécar community to witness a cashless food exchange, organised by WhatsApp and distributed through footballers in the women’s first division.

By combining traditional customs and the latest communication technology, organisers hope to boost their community’s resilience to economic and climate shocks.

Ship pollution loopholes

Gaps in maritime regulations make precious ecosystems and the people who rely on them vulnerable to oil spills, as two stories this week illustrate.

Compensation for July’s oil spill in Mauritius may not match the scale of the damage because payouts are capped based on ship type.

Meanwhile a proposed ban on heavy fuel oil in the Arctic has been so watered down to suit Russian interests it will have almost no effect this decade.

No extension

Only 80 countries are on track to submit updated climate plans to the UN by the end of the year, climate chief Patricia Espinosa admits – and China is not among them.

The 2020 deadline was already in doubt before the pandemic hit, with many signatories of the Paris Agreement facing political or practical hurdles. Covid-19 has only added to the delays.

Still, Espinosa says there is no “plan B deadline” and leaders must use their coronavirus recovery packages to address climate change.

Read more on: Climate justice | Climate politics