Six young people from Portugal are taking thirty-three countries to the European Court of Human Rights for failing to do their part to avert climate catastrophe
The Covid-19 crisis has not made the climate emergency go away. Climate change remains the single greatest threat to humanity and the need for a radical transition away from fossil fuels is as urgent as ever.It is still possible for governments to prevent this threat if they commit to a #GreenRecovery from the Covid-19 crisis.
But time is quickly running out. And the science is clear: European governments are still not doing enough.
That’s why six children and young adults from Portugal are taking thirty-three of these governments to court. They are already experiencing record-breaking heatwaves and devastating forest fires on a scale never seen before. Without urgent measures to keep fossil fuels in the ground, their generation faces a future dominated by deadly weather extremes. By taking this case, they are adding their voices to the global fight for climate justice.
Catarina (20) lives in a small town in the Leiria district of Portugal. She decided to participate in this case as she can already see how her home region is becoming a much more hostile place to live due to the climate crisis. The heat extremes which Portugal has experienced in recent years have significantly interfered with Catarina’s ability to exercise outdoors and to sleep properly. Knowing that Portugal stands to experience dramatically worse heat extremes during her lifetime if governments do not take urgent action, she worries greatly about her future and the future of the family that she hopes to have one day.
Cláudia (21) is also from Leiria where she grew up with her brother Martim and sister Mariana. She is currently studying to become a nurse and believes that Covid-19 should act as a warning about our vulnerability as humans. She knows that the pandemic has not made the climate emergency go away and that urgent action is needed to protect us from this major threat. Having grown up in the countryside, Cláudia has always loved spending time in nature. It troubles her greatly that, during the summer, places like forests are becoming more dangerous, as wildfires in Portugal become increasingly extreme.
Martim (17) is currently studying at a science and technology school in Leiria. The devastating forest fires which broke out in Portugal in 2017 caused his school to close due to the amount of smoke in the air. He recalls the horror of discovering the extent of the destruction caused by these fires so close to his home. Martim would much prefer not to have to take this case. But the heat extremes that he has already experienced during recent summers has made him realise that he and his generation must do everything they can to force governments to safeguard their futures.
Mariana (8) is the youngest of the children and young adults who are bringing this case. She is a lover of animals and spends as much time as she can on her grandparents’ farm. Even at her very young age, she has an awareness that there is a problem called climate change and that it is harming the world around her. If Mariana lives to 88 years of age, she will be alive in 2100. By then, without radical action by governments, the world could be 4°C hotter than during pre-industrial times. In such a catastrophic scenario, Portugal could experience heatwaves, with temperatures of over 40°C, which last for over a month.
Sofia (15) lives with her brother, André, and parents in Lisbon. Knowing what it means for her generation’s future, she finds the issue of climate change scary and depressing. But she is still hopeful because she knows that if enough people demand action, governments will do what is needed to stop the climate crisis. Sofia is bringing this case to add to the voices of the many millions of people – from youth activists to climate scientists – calling for urgent action. After school she wants to study ‘green chemistry’ to learn how to create alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials so that fossil fuels can be kept where they belong: in the ground.
André (12), like his sister, Sofia, hopes to one day use his love of science to develop technologies which allow our planet to thrive. But he worries about his future because he knows that the effects of climate change in Portugal are becoming more and more extreme. He notices that his friends are becoming more worried about climate change too and cannot understand how the people who are supposed to be protecting us are letting this happen. André wishes he could focus on his hobbies, his schoolwork and playing with his friends. But he also understands that we all must do what we can to force politicians to protect us.
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