Six young people from Portugal have taken 32 European governments to court, arguing that the countries’ failure to take swift action on climate change has violated their human rights.

In an “unprecedented” climate change case, six young people from areas in Portugal affected by heat waves and wildfires took 32 European governments to court today, arguing that the countries’ failure to take swift action on the climate crisis violated their human rights.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will hear the case, which was filed in September of 2020 by youth from 11 to 24 years old, reported Reuters. It is the largest climate suit ever heard by the ECHR.

“This is truly a David and Goliath case, that’s unprecedented in its scale (and) its potential impacts,” Gearóid Ó Cuinn, director of Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), a nonprofit that has supported the claimants’ case, told CNN. “Never before have so many states had to defend themselves in front of anywhere in the world.”

The argument by the claimants surrounds the named countries’ inaction on climate change, which they say threatens their rights to life and physical and mental well-being, Reuters reported.

“What I felt was fear,” said 24-year-old claimant Claudia Duarte Agostinho, remembering the extreme heat and wildfires that killed more than 100 people in Portugal in 2017, as reported by BBC News. “The wildfires made me really anxious about what sort of future I would have.”

The case was filed against all 27 European Union member states, plus Switzerland, Norway, Britain, Russia and Turkey.

If the ECHR upholds the complaint, national courts could order governments to speed up their timelines for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The national courts would then be responsible for enforcing the rulings, according to GLAN lawyer Gerry Liston, as Reuters reported.

Before the hearing, a court submission by Greece said, “effects of climate change, as recorded so far, do not seem to directly affect human life or human health,” reported Reuters. Ó Cuinn called the statement “climate denialism.”

“I want a green world without pollution, I want to be healthy,” said 11-year-old claimant Mariana Agostinho, as BBC News reported. “I’m in this case because I’m really worried about my future. I’m afraid of what the place where we live will look like.”

Six lawyers are representing the youth claimants in the case, while more than 80 lawyers are advocating for the accused countries, reported Reuters.

“Without urgent action by the governments, the youth applicants involved in this case face unbearable heat extremes that’ll harm their health and their wellbeing. We know that the governments have it within their power to do much more to stop this, but they are choosing not to act,” Ó Cuinn said, as BBC News reported.

Original source: https://www.ecowatch.com