International youth file climate change lawsuits

Six Portuguese young people have filed a legal complaint at the European Court of Human Rights  (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, accusing 33 countries of violating their right to a secure future by failing to take action to mitigate the climate crisis. The youths aged 12 through 21, represented by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), are targetting countries whose policies on carbon emission reduction they say are too weak to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement, citing the country ratings of the Climate Action Tracker. Named in the suit are the 27 European Union member states, as well as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Their complaint comes after lethal wildfires in Portugal in 2017 killed more than 120 people. Researchers have linked the intensity of the 2017 fires to global warming. The case is also being filed after Portugal recorded its hottest July in the last 90 years.

"I am afraid for my future," petitioner Catarina Mota, 20, told reporters during a virtual press conference from her home in Leiria, in central Portugal. "I live with the feeling that every year my home becomes a more hostile place. If I have children, what kind of world shall I bring them up in? These are real concerns that I have every day... After the 2017 fires we realized that we must change and urgently stop climate change." (Climate Home News, DW)

A similar legal action has been launched by a group of youth in Australia, seeking an injunction to stop approval of a license extension at Whitehaven Coal's Vickery mine in New South Wales, arguing that it would threaten the futures of young people all over the world by exacerbating climate change. Izzy Raj-Seppings, 13, lead plaintiff in the case, filed the injunction along with seven other young people aged 13 to 17—many of whom met during the School Strike 4 Climate protests. The Sydney high school student made headlines last year when police ordered her to move on after holding a protest outside the prime minister's Kirribilli residence. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Australia has also repeatedly been devastated by wildfires in recent years. 

Numerous lawsuits over climate change are pending from California to Peru.

Increased warming closing in on Paris Accord limit

The Earth is getting closer to passing a temperature limit set by global leaders five years ago and may exceed it in the next decade or so, according to a new United Nations report.

In the next five years, the planet has nearly a 1-in-4 chance of experiencing a year hot enough to put the global temperature at 2.7 degrees (1.5 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial times, according to a new science update released by the World Meteorological Organization and other global science groups. (AP)

This is in line with findings of a recent NASA study.

Rio Tinto chief to quit over Aboriginal cave destruction

The CEO of Rio Tinto, Jean-Sebastien Jacques, will step down following criticism of the mining giant's destruction of sacred Aboriginal sites. In May, the world's biggest iron ore miner destroyed two ancient caves in Pilbara, Western Australia. The company went ahead with blowing up the Juukan Gorge rock shelters over the protests of Aboriginal traditional owners. It has sparked widespread condemnation from shareholders and the public.

Artefacts found at the caves include a 28,000-year-old animal bone tool and a 4,000-year-old belt made of plaited human hair. DNA testing had directly linked it to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people—the traditional owners of the land. After the caves were destroyed, a PKKP representative, John Ashburton, said losing the site was a "devastating blow." (BBC News)

Hague court hears climate case against Royal Dutch Shell

The District Court of The Hague began hearings against Royal Dutch Shell in a case brought by 17,379 co-plaintiffs and seven Dutch climate activist groups.

The co-plaintiffs, led by Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie), are demanding that Shell reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, and to net-zero by 2050. They claim that Shell knowingly contributes to climate change by continuing to expand its fossil fuel operations with little to no investment in renewable energy. Invoking article 6:162 of the Dutch Civil Code, the plaintiffs allege that Shell has breached its duty of care and unlawfully endangered the Dutch people. In addition, they allege that Shell has violated articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), namely the rights to life and respect for family life.

The case relies in part on a 2019 decision of the Netherlands Supreme Court, in which the government was ordered to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. While the court was able to enforce ECHR obligations against the State, it unclear whether the same can be done against a company. (Jurist)

Europe rights court rejects challenge to climate change case

The European Court of Human Rights dismissed an attempt by 33 defendant governments to challenge the accelerated status of a climate change case brought against them by six Portuguese youth activists. The activists claim that the countries signed the 2015 Paris Agreement but have failed to "comply with their commitments in order to limit climate change" after Portugal experienced its highest July temperatures in 90 years. Due to the "urgency" of the matter, the court granted the case a rare priority status in November. (Jurist)