Eight-year-old Mariana and her five young comrades-in-arms are putting Germany and another 32 countries in Europe under great pressure in the fight against climate change.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg has given the go-ahead for an extraordinary complaint by the six children and young people from Portugal. Because of the importance and urgency of the issues raised, priority will be given to the complaint, the ECHR announced on Monday. It is now the turn of Chancellor Angela Merkel and all the governments concerned. They have until the end of February to comment on the allegations.
Mariana is the youngest of the group, the oldest is 21. She accuses all EU countries as well as Norway, Russia, Great Britain, Turkey, Switzerland and Ukraine of having exacerbated the climate crisis and thus endangering the future of her generation. Their goal: The ECtHR is supposed to encourage climate offenders to set their national goals higher and to reduce the emissions caused by them and their international corporations worldwide.
The news from Strasbourg caused a lot of cheers in Portugal. “It gives me a lot of hope to know that the judges in the European Court of Human Rights recognize the urgency of our case,” said 12-year-old André Oliveira from Lisbon, who is participating with sister Sofia (15). When the lawsuit was filed at the beginning of September, little Mariana Agostinho from Leiria said in an interview with the German press agency dpa: “I am very afraid of having to live on a sick planet.”
The young Portuguese are supported in their struggle by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN). The non-governmental organization speaks of an “unprecedented action”. The decision of the ECHR is now “an important step towards a possible groundbreaking judgment on climate change”. The vast majority of the lawsuits filed in the Strasbourg court were rejected and did not reach that stage, it said.
“These brave young people have overcome a major hurdle in the process of reaching a verdict that will force European governments to accelerate their climate change efforts,” GLAN legal advisor Gerry Liston said in a response. The news from Strasbourg came just weeks before the EU decided on its emissions target for 2030.
A reduction of at least 65 percent is necessary “so that the EU member states meet their obligations towards young applicants and countless others,” said Liston. This is the only way to achieve the desired goal of global warming of no more than 1.5 degrees compared to the pre-industrial age. 2020 is projected to be the hottest year on record. If nothing changes, forecasts predict average temperatures around the world to rise by three degrees by 2100. The ice melt not only threatens holiday paradises such as the island states of the Maldives or Tuvalu, but also the Halligen off the German North Sea coast.
The last trigger for Mariana, André & Co. was the devastating fires of 2017 in their home country, in which more than a hundred people died and huge forest areas were destroyed. “The penny dropped for me. We experienced the consequences up close, and I realized how urgent we have to act to stop climate change,” said Mariana’s sister Claudia (21) of the dpa.
Experts have confirmed that climate change played a role in this disaster, GLAN said. Back then – in June 2017 – the images from the Pedrogão Grande region not far from Leiria went around the world: desperate motorists surrounded by the flames published shocking live videos. A country road became a deadly trap for almost three dozen people, many burned beyond recognition in their cars. Thousands of animals died miserably, houses were razed to the ground.
The group, which also includes Claudia’s and Mariana’s brother Martin (17) and Catarina (20), wants to create something that more famous climate fighters like Greta Thunberg or Luisa Neubauer did not dare to do. Why is the lawsuit so unique? Actually, one must first file a complaint in a domestic court before calling the ECHR. In the case of the fight against cross-border climate change, however, it was not possible for adolescents to raise their concerns in 33 different countries and to prosecute them to the highest national courts, was the argument that got away with them.
André, who had to endure a record temperature of 44 degrees in Lisbon in August 2018, continues to rely on the insight of the mighty. “What I wish is that the governments in Europe immediately do what the scientists consider necessary to protect our future.” The small but resolute “David” also warns the “Goliaths”: “As long as they don’t do this do we will fight with more determination than ever. ”
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 201130-99-519010 / 2 (dpa)