The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child declined to rule on a complaint filed by youth activists from twelve countries. The young adults claimed that Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey have violated children’s rights by failing to control carbon emissions, despite knowing about the perils of climate change. The panel told the activists that they should have brought their cases to national courts.
The self-dubbed “Children vs. the Climate Crisis” insist there’s not time for lengthy court cases; they need to take their case to the top. The youth come from twelve countries: Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nigeria, South Africa, Sweden, Tunisia and the United States. Some countries, such as the Marshall Islands, are especially pressed for time — their chain of ancient submerged volcanoes may be under the rising seas by 2035.
“The truth is that I’m doing this because I feel like I haven’t been left a choice and this is the only way for me to not feel guilty,” said 18-year-old French climate activist Iris Duquesne as reported by EcoWatch. “The shame of having the possibility to do something and not doing it is too big. This is the main motivation for all youth climate activists, this and anger. Anger to feel left behind, not listened to and simply left alone.”
The petition in question was filed in 2019 by 16 activists who ranged in age from eight to 17 at the time. The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors 196 signatories of a 1989 convention declaring the civil, cultural, economic and political rights of children unassailable. Of these, 48 countries agreed to allow children to take action to fix violations. The five countries named in the petition are part of this subset.
Environmental and human rights attorneys from Hausfeld and Earthjustice are representing the youth activists. The lawyers said in a statement that the committee’s decision, announced October 11, “delivered a rebuke to young people around the world who are demanding immediate action on the climate crisis. In dismissing the case, the Committee told children that climate change is a dire global emergency, but the UN’s doors are closed to them.”
However, the kids had some wins. The committee acknowledged that states are legally responsible for emissions that cause harm beyond their borders, and that the youth are indeed victims of climate-related threats to their health, life and culture. These findings could significantly influence future litigation.
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