United Nations Committee rejects climate change petition by Greta Thunberg and young activists around the world

In an “astonishing” and heartbreaking decision, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child refused to hear the cases of 16 young people around the world threatened by the climate crisis.


The international human rights body is responsible for protecting the rights of children. As such, a joint petition from young people, including Greta Thunberg, argued that five G20 countries – Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey – violate their rights to life, to health and culture under the Convention on the Rights of the Child by failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 ° C at above pre-industrial levels.

The petition called five countries that have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, but continue to pollute and use fossil fuels. In doing so, they are taking no action to meet their obligations under the Convention to ensure the health and well-being of children as the climate crisis escalates, Earthjustice reported.

In their petition, the young people asked for action, not money. They implored the UN body to make specific recommendations to the five nations on how they can meet their treaty obligations. These included changing their laws in response to climate change and putting more diplomatic pressure on big polluters like the United States and China. All countries except the United States have ratified the Convention.

The 1.5 ° C target was set by climatologists in the historic Paris Agreement. According to the IPCC’s special report on global warming of 1.5 ° C, successful limiting of temperature increases will mean that “our world will experience less negative impacts on the intensity and frequency of extreme events, on resources, ecosystems, biodiversity, food security, cities, tourism and carbon elimination. “

The young petitioners, the self-proclaimed “Children Against the Climate Crisis”, hail from 12 different nations ranging from the tiny Marshall Islands, almost at sea level, to the fuel-hungry giant US fossil fuels. They all reiterate that they as children should not take up this fight. Instead, they should enjoy their teenage years and not wonder what the next few decades might bring, French climate activist Iris Duquesne, 18, told EcoWatch. Despite their diverse backgrounds and unique reasons for protesting, their message is unified: to save the future, severe and swift action is needed now.

“The truth is I’m doing this because I feel like I was given no choice and it’s the only way I don’t feel guilty,” Duquesne told EcoWatch. “The shame of having the opportunity to do something and not to do it is too great. This is the main motivation for all young climate activists, that and anger. The anger of feeling left behind. , not listened to and just left alone. “

The young people are represented by human rights and environmental lawyers from Hausfeld and Earthjustice. The Committee’s decision, handed down on October 11, “criticized young people around the world who demand immediate action on the climate crisis,” according to a statement from Hausfeld. “In dismissing the case, the Committee told the children that climate change is a serious global emergency, but the doors of the UN are closed to them.”

The Committee called on young people to file claims in all five countries, returning to the UN only after losing in national courts. Their lawyers warn that this process would create years of procedural delay and that it sends this message to children: “You are alone.

“I feel angry,” Duquesne told EcoWatch. “Governments and officials say they care, but nothing is ever done to ensure a more secure future. Our livelihoods and integrity are directly affected, but no one is listening to us. very very scary. “

“For petitioner Litokne Kabua (18) and other children from the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, there is simply no time to file a climate change case in every state in the world that is fueling global warming : If emissions are not immediately reduced, the Marshall Islands will likely be submerged in the ocean in the lifetime of the children, “Hausfeld’s statement said. This makes tackling climate change not just an environmental issue. , but also a problem of social justice.

Despite the disappointing outcome, young people won on some of the most difficult legal issues surrounding climate disputes. The Committee accepted their arguments that states are legally responsible for the harmful effects of emissions from their territory on children outside their borders. In addition, the fact that all states are at the origin of climate change, the Committee found, does not exempt states from the individual responsibility to reduce their own share of emissions. The Committee also noted that young people face foreseeable threats to their rights to life, health and culture. These results could prove to be important in future climate disputes.

Despite this legal victory, the procedural loss forcing them to bring their cases first to national courts is a severe blow. Their lawyers say there are “tomes of case law and expert evidence showing that none of these cases would succeed.” Indeed, according to their lawyers, the Committee has asked young people to waste years waiting for inevitable dismissal, and time is running out.

“I have no doubt that this judgment will haunt the Committee in the future,” said petitioner Alexandria Villaseñor, 16. luck. Children are increasingly on the front lines of the climate crisis, accounting for over 80% of climate-related deaths. Once again, the adults failed to protect us.

Tiffany Duong is a writer, explorer and motivational speaker. She graduated from UCLA and Carey Law School at the University of Pennsylvania. As a contributing journalist at EcoWatch, she gives voice to what is happening in the natural world. Its mission is to inspire meaningful action and lasting change. Follow her on Twitter / Instagram @tiffmakeswaves.

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