Sixteen minors have filed a complaint with the United Nations against five countries — Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey — for failing to take adequate action on climate change, thus violating their human rights. They cited the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely-ratified human rights treaty in history.
Their petition alleges that the named nations have not done enough to reduce greenhouses gases and that the lack of adequate measures has adversely impacted their lives and will continue to do so as they age. They do not want financial compensation but instead ask that the nations change their goals and work with other countries to fix the problem.
On Sept. 23, Swedish climate activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg, 16, addressed the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit in New York City. The complaint was filed on the children’s behalf by law firm Hausfeld and nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice that same day.
“The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control,” she said in her remarks.
She went on to characterize a 50% risk as unacceptable and explained that as of Jan.1, 2018, the world had had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit in order to achieve a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5-degree global temperature rise. Today, that number is down to 350 gigatons.
“You are failing us,” she said. “But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”
In addition to Thunberg, the other 15 children who filed the complaint range in age from 8-17 and hail from 12 different countries. One of the young people is American Alexandria Villaseñor, who founded U.S. Youth Climate Strike and has conducted climate protests outside of U.N. headquarters in New York. Here is a tweet from her Twitter, outlining some of the work she has done on the climate change issue.
I'm so excited to share with you my #ScholasticAction project! Hang out for a few minutes with @Scholastic and I while we #TeachClimate together!@acespace @Earth_Uprising @annastarecheskihttps://t.co/9RUNNl1leN
— Alexandria Villaseñor (@AlexandriaV2005) September 9, 2019
“If the world leaders listen to us, children can make a difference in this world, because we’re the ones that are going to be affected,” Carl Smith, a 17-year-old student from the United States whose name is on the complaint told Children vs. Climate Crisis.
The countries targeted by the young activists are known to be among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. They were singled out because, as signatories of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, they had agreed to hear complaints against them.
However, two of the other biggest greenhouse gas emitters include China and the U.S., neither of which ratified the part of the treaty that allows children to seek justice against them.