Claudia, aged 24, her brother Martim, aged 20, and her sister Mariana, aged 11, are among six young Portuguese individuals who have initiated legal proceedings against 32 governments, including all EU member states, the UK, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey. The plaintiffs allege that these countries have failed to take adequate measures to address climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Paris Agreement's objective of limiting global warming to 1.5C.
This case marks the first of its kind to be brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. If successful, it could have legally binding implications for the governments involved. The initial hearing in the case is scheduled for later today.
The plaintiffs contend that their fundamental human rights, including the right to life, privacy, family life, and freedom from discrimination, are being violated due to the governments' reluctance to combat climate change. They assert that they have already experienced significant adverse effects, particularly due to extreme temperatures in Portugal, which have forced them to remain indoors and limited their ability to sleep, concentrate, or engage in physical activity. Some of the plaintiffs also suffer from eco-anxiety, allergies, and respiratory conditions, including asthma.
Claudia reports that Mariana remains frightened when she hears helicopters flying overhead, as it reminds her of the firefighters during the 2017 wildfires that destroyed over 50,000 acres (78 sq miles, 202 sq km) of forest, with ashes falling over their home miles away. Claudia commends Mariana for her involvement in this case and her conscientiousness at such a young age.
The legal representatives for the six young claimants are expected to argue in court that the 32 governments' current policies are leading the world towards 3C of global warming by the end of the century.
In the absence of prompt action by the respective governments, the young individuals involved in this particular case are confronted with intolerable levels of extreme heat, which pose a threat to their physical and mental well-being. It is evident that the governments possess the capability to undertake more substantial efforts to address this issue, yet they have consciously chosen not to act," he asserts.
Based on an extensive survey encompassing 10,000 children and young adults aged 16-25 from 10 nations worldwide, the study indicates that a perceived failure on the part of governments to respond to the climate crisis is correlated with heightened distress.
In their individual and collective responses to the case, the governments contend that the claimants have not adequately demonstrated that they have suffered as a direct consequence of climate change or the Portuguese wildfires. "These six ordinary individuals from Portugal, who harbor legitimate concerns about their future, will be pitted against 32 legal teams and numerous lawyers representing governments whose inaction is already causing them harm," remarks Gearóid Ó Cuinn.
"Hence, this case represents a true David versus Goliath scenario, as it seeks to bring about structural changes that will set us on a more promising trajectory for the future."
"It serves as a wake-up call to member states, international organizations, and all of us who possess a unique opportunity to demonstrate genuine concern, rather than mere rhetoric. It is not merely a matter of ticking boxes and proclaiming support for certain resolutions. It necessitates a transformation of our policies," she conveys to the BBC.
Claudia frequently contemplates whether she should have children in the future, questioning the conditions under which they would be compelled to exist. "However, prevailing in this case would signify the restoration of hope," she asserts.
"It would signify that people are genuinely attentive to our concerns and share our anxieties, compelling governments to implement measures to address the issue. It would be a remarkable development for all aspects of our lives - alleviating our anxiety and securing our futures."