Climate Change

Eight European, African families sue EU seeking climate justice

These ‘climate victims’, who live near the coast or in the mountains, are witnesses to melting glaciers and affected by permafrost melting

By Ayushi Rai
Last Updated: Friday 01 June 2018

Climate change is our collective doing, yet its effects are disproportionately borne by those who have contributed least to it. But now people, from across the world, who have been adversely affected by weather extremities such as drought, heat waves, rising seas and storm surges, are calling for climate justice. Recently, 10 families from eight nations in Europe and Africa collectively sued the European Union demanding just that.

These families are from Romania, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Kenya and Fiji and they sued the EU over impact of rising temperatures on their livelihoods and homes. The Climate Action Network’s representative on the decision to include non-European plaintiffs says, “Climate change is felt everywhere in the world. There's a global responsibility.”

But these climate victims insist that the EU should do more than just limit climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions and highlighting the issues of drought, glacier melting, sea level rip and flooding that are bound to worsen with rise in temperature. “The plaintiffs are families living near the coast, owning forests in Portugal, living in the mountains that see the glaciers melting, and those in the north that are affected by permafrost melting,” said their lawyer Roda Verheyen.

According to the group’s lawyers, this claim, popularly called the “People’s Climate Case”, is the first of its kind against the EU. Previous suits were only pressuring the individual governments to take tougher climate action. That said, this is not the first case on climate change in the world. According to a recent tally by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment-London, as of now, there are at least 1,000 active legal cases related to climate change in the world.

In 1992, even the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) declared that developed countries bear a larger responsibility to fix the issue of climate change. The climate justice movement highlights the fact that rich or developed nations are to be blamed for climate change while the poorer and developing/underdeveloped countries have been the ones to be first and worst hit.

In the Paris Agreement in 2015, nations worldwide agreed to limit the average warming to under two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels. Under this, the countries voluntarily submitted emissions-cutting pledges. The European Union pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. “The plaintiffs claim that the goal is inadequate to protect their fundamental rights such as the right to life, health, property, and occupation,” said the Climate Action Network lobby group that backs the court bid.

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