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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) began a landmark trial Wednesday that will force 33 countries to defend themselves against allegations that they did not take proper action against climate change, Euronews reported.
The case centers on a lawsuit filed three years ago by six Portuguese individuals, ranging in age from 11 to 24, against the governments, listed as the 27-nation European Union, Russia, Turkey, Switzerland, Norway, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
The plaintiffs allege that the governments have failed to adequately tackle global warming, saying that such inaction breaches their human rights and discriminates against the young, the Conversation noted.
They added that climate anxiety is now widespread among members of their generation: The youth cited recent heatwaves and devastating wildfires in Portugal that have restricted their ability to sleep and harmed their physical health.
Analysts said that the case will have significant implications for climate litigation globally: It could determine whether countries have a legal duty to protect individuals from the harmful effects of climate change, especially when those effects cross borders.
If the France-based court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the precedent set for future climate-related lawsuits could also compel governments to accelerate their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, has also intervened in the case, emphasizing the bloc’s commitment to addressing climate change.
Even so, some EU countries have come under fire for missing deadlines and failing to do enough to meet climate targets, while others are rolling back climate policies.