Support unprecedented youth climate case against 32 European countries

by Global Legal Action Network

Support unprecedented youth climate case against 32 European countries

by Global Legal Action Network
Global Legal Action Network
Case Owner
The Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) pursues innovative legal actions across borders challenging the involvement of powerful actors in serious human rights violations and systematic injustice.
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Global Legal Action Network
Case Owner
The Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) pursues innovative legal actions across borders challenging the involvement of powerful actors in serious human rights violations and systematic injustice.
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Latest: April 10, 2024

The ruling is out!

Swiss elders and Portuguese youth applicants leaving the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights after historic ruling on climate change.  

The European Court of Human Rights (EC…

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European governments are categorically failing to enact the deep and urgent emissions cuts required to avert a climate catastrophe. 

With GLAN’s support, a group of Portuguese children and young adults have brought an unprecedented climate change case against 32* countries to the European Court of Human Rights. We’re now asking for your support to face the counter-arguments of these governments and their numerous lawyers. 

This case centres on the rising threat which climate change poses to the lives and wellbeing, both physical and mental, of these young people. If successful, these 32 countries would be legally bound, not only to ramp up their emissions cuts, but also to tackle their overseas contributions to climate change, including their exports of fossil fuels. 

We were able to get this case to court following a successful CrowdJustice crowdfunding campaign. Once again we are asking for your support to help us secure a victory in this vital case.

Meet the children and young adults involved

Four of the youth-applicants in this case, Catarina (23), Cláudia (24), Martim (20) and Mariana (11) live in Leiria, one of the regions worst-hit by the devastating forest fires which killed over 120 people in Portugal in 2017. Sofia (18) and André (15) are from Lisbon where, during a heatwave in August 2018, a new temperature record of 44⁰C was set. These young people are already experiencing the effects of climate change. But what they have felt so far does not compare to what they face in future. Experts predict that, without urgent action from governments, they could face having to endure lethal month-long heatwaves with temperatures exceeding 40°C.

Climate change is the single greatest threat to humanity and the need for a radical transition away from fossil fuels is as urgent as ever.

 Our team

GLAN’s dedicated team has worked closely with the six youth-applicants in helping them chart a path to the European Court of Human Rights. We have brought together the necessary legal and scientific expertise to put forward the strongest possible case.

The funding we need to raise and why we ask you to donate

Now that we have filed this case, we face the major task of responding to the arguments of 32 countries. We are seeking your support to help us meet this challenge. This will be enable us to engage in further legal research, evidence gathering and to cover translation costs. 

Please join us and together we can achieve a ground-breaking legal victory.

* The 32 countries being sued are: The Member States of the EU (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) as well as Norway, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Turkey 

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Update 14

Global Legal Action Network

April 10, 2024

The ruling is out!

Swiss elders and Portuguese youth applicants leaving the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights after historic ruling on climate change.  

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered its judgments in landmark climate cases, including GLAN’s Youth 4 Climate Justice case (Duarte Agostinho and Others v. 32 Member States).

While the ECtHR held that our case was inadmissible, it issued a landmark ruling in a case brought by a group of Senior Swiss Women against Switzerland, which was linked to ours. Its ruling is unequivocal that government failure to rapidly cut emissions is a violation of human rights.  

Through their cases, these heroic Swiss ladies and our courageous Portuguese youth-applicants stood in solidarity as representative of young and older generations. And in its ruling, the ECtHR recognised that the climate crisis poses an existential threat to current and future generations. 

Even though our case was dismissed, its impact on the decision of the Court in the KlimaSeniorinnen case and beyond has been widely recognised:  

  • Commenting on the rulings, Professor Aoife Nolan, President of the Council of Europe's European Committee of Social Rights commented that “the advocacy surrounding [the Portuguese case] has fundamentally changed European climate justice discourse and the landscape of climate justice efforts”. 

  • A leading expert on climate litigation said: “These cases drew on each other, and they should be understood that way. In particular, the arguments created by the Duarte Agostinho case shifted what was thought legally possible, and they created new approaches to how much states know and can be expected to do about climate change. These understandings infused the KlimaSeniorinnen case, so while Duarte Agostinho may have been declared inadmissible, the argumentative model created by this case will certainly have an enduring legacy in the Court’s further case-law on climate change.” (See further analysis here) 

Our case both exposed, in forensic detail, the inadequacy of the climate policies of the 32 defendant governments in open court and forced them to claim that their national courts are capable of holding them accountable for their inadequate climate policies. In its ruling in our case, the ECtHR stated that future climate cases against European governments must now be brought in national courts. These future cases will now be able to use both the evidence in our case and the arguments the governments made so that their courts can hold them accountable. 

Gerry Liston, GLAN Senior Lawyer, said: 

“Today’s ruling against Switzerland sets a historic precedent that applies to all European countries. It means that all European governments must urgently revise their targets so that they are science-based and aligned to 1.5 degrees. This is a massive win for all generations.” 

The KlimaSeniorinnen success is not just confined to Switzerland. All European countries must now follow this science-based decision and comply immediately or face legal action in their national courts. 

This ruling is a call to action for the climate movement – we will not stop demanding action from governments on their clear obligation, confirmed in this ruling, to prevent climate catastrophe. 

This has been an unprecedented journey made possible by you, our GLAN supporters. Thank you for believing in our vision to hold powerful actors to account for their roles in creating the climate crisis – our work is just getting started and we are so grateful to have you by our side.  

Update 13

Global Legal Action Network

April 5, 2024

Just 4 days!!

In just 4 days the European Court of Human Rights will deliver a ruling in our groundbreaking Youth4ClimateJustice case (Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Other States)! The Court will provide its ruling at a hearing in Strasbourg on Tuesday 9th April.   

This case – spearheaded by GLAN and a group of courageous Portuguese youth-Applicants – is the first climate case filed with the ECtHR and the biggest case ever taken. While we eagerly await the Court’s judgment, we are reflecting on the journey that got us this far, and the impact the case has already had.  

This case has inspired others to take similar claims to the ECtHR and has reshaped expectations about what the European Convention of Human Rights may be able to offer European citizens in the context of climate change. When we talk about using the law in innovative ways to hold powerful actors accountable, this is what we mean.  

The case has already had impact outside of the Courts too – since our application was filed, there has been an unprecedented scale of global media coverage, inspiring people around Europe, and beyond, to get involved in the climate movement. As the movement has strengthened over the last few years, the Council of Europe has also reopened debates about the possibility of recognising a self-standing right to a healthy environment. This would give the Council increased ability to deal with global and systemic environmental issues.  

Whatever way the Court rules on Tuesday, we are working to maximise this historic moment’s impact and inspire participation in the fight to protect our future. This case has been made possible thanks to donations raised through crowdfunding. We’re so close to achieving our target to raise funds to get the youth-Applicants back in Court one last time and ensure that governments know the world is watching.  

Would you consider helping us reach our target?  

Update 12

Global Legal Action Network

March 27, 2024

We've got a ruling date!!

The European Court of Human Rights has announced it will give a ruling on our unprecedented #Youth4ClimateJustice case, as well as KlimaSeniorinnen v Switzerland & Carême v France at 10.30 am CET on 9th April live at the court in Strasbourg!

Our team, together with the youth-Applicants, are now busy preparing to attend this historic hearing. This is a pivotal moment; leading up to the ruling we are working to amplify the young people's voices and letting governments and decision makers know that the status quo will no longer be accepted. Every day citizens like the six Portuguese youth and the Swiss senior women are standing up to defend their futures, and this movement is only getting stronger.

European governments need to do much more to protect all generations from the catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis.

We're working tirelessly to hold these governments to account but we can't do it without you. Will you support us as we continue this fight? 

Update 11

Global Legal Action Network

Feb. 8, 2024

We're continuing to fight for climate justice

2024 is going to be a significant year for GLAN’s work on climate.  We are setting the stage for the next phase after the ECtHR’s much-anticipated ruling following our unprecedented hearing in the Youth4ClimateJustice case last September.  

As we await the Court’s ruling, we’re preparing a huge communications campaign to inspire people around Europe to act on the ruling and implement climate positive measures, whatever the outcome. We’re also hard at work behind the scenes to continue putting pressure on European governments to strengthen their inadequate climate policies.  

Together with Climate Action Network-Europe, we have launched a ground-breaking legal battle against the European Commission, challenging the legality of the EU’s insufficient greenhouse gas emissions targets for 2030.  

This case aims to put pressure on the EU to really increase its efforts to reduce its emissions this critical decade. Building on arguments in our Youth4ClimateJustice case, our claim is based on scientific evidence proving that the emissions targets set by the EU are not enough to tackle the climate crisis.  We are working with CAN-Europe to ensure our case inspires advocacy efforts throughout the EU in the necessary push for stronger climate action. 

Update 10

Global Legal Action Network

Oct. 12, 2023

The Youth4ClimateJustice hearing is over, but the work continues!

Dear Supporter, 

We are pleased to update you that the historic hearing in our climate case, brought with our support by 6 courageous young people from Portugal against 32 governments, was held at the European Court of Human Rights on 27th September. 

Inside the court

Our legal team argued in front of 22 judges, opposite the 86 government representatives present, explaining why the 32 Respondent states must take much stronger action on the climate crisis. The respondent governments were first to give their oral submissions lead by lawyers from Portugal, the UK and Belgium. As expected, they continued in their efforts to evade scrutiny on their climate policies by focusing on "admissibility” questions, rather than the merits of the youth-Applicants’ arguments.

The 32 governments also sought to trivialize the experiences of the youth by arguing the effects of climate change do not directly affect their life or health. The 6 youth have been feeling the worsening impacts of extreme heat and the governments’ position is an insult to the reality they are having to endure.


It is clear government inaction to adequately reduce their emissions is a violation of the youth's human rights. We hope that the court will compel the 32 states to act in time to protect their futures. The recording of the hearing can be viewed on the court website here:

What next?

Now we wait for the court's judgment, which we expect to receive in the first half of 2024. If successful, all 32 countries would be legally bound to substantially reduce their emissions. We will continue our work on climate and environmental justice, and beyond - find out more about our ongoing cases here.

Thank you!

"We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us in suing 32 European governments to protect our basic human rights from climate catastrophe.

Thank you so much for helping us make this case a reality, and for standing with us and making us feel support from all over the world as we headed into the European Court of Human Rights last week. Because it was pretty daunting to face dozens of lawyers representing all these governments in court, while asking them to take responsibility for contributing to the global heating that’s causing destructive wildfires and extreme heat in our home country of Portugal.

Now we wait for the judgment. Fingers crossed the court will rule to protect our rights and future!" - Cláudia, Catarina, Martim, Mariana, Sofia and André

The last month has been a whirlwind for the young people, their families and the GLAN climate team. The fact that this case, which began as an ambitious idea to hold governments accountable over 6 years ago, was finally heard in the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR is a testament to the strength and determination of the young people and their legal team. 

But we could not have done it without your support, both in donating to our crowdfund, spreading the word far and wide, and sending messages of support that mean so much to the 6 youth-Applicants and the GLAN team.

We take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you for your kind support for our work!

With gratitude,

Gearóid, Gerry, Stéphanie, Jasmine and the GLAN team

Update 9

Global Legal Action Network

Sept. 22, 2023

5 days until our historic climate hearing!

In just 5 days, the 6 young people will be sitting across from the 32 well-resourced legal teams representing governments whose climate inaction is already harming them.   

The stakes could not be higher. Without urgent action by governments, the youth-Applicants, like many others, face unbearable heat and weather extremes that harm their health and well-being. We’re talking about conditions which leading scientists say are unliveable. 

Governments have failed and we need to the Court to step in.   

Over the last six years GLAN has supported the youth bringing this enormous case that has been described as ‘momentous and unique’ in global climate litigation. Now we need your help at this critical moment to spread the word far and wide.

People power is what has got us this far and we are so grateful to everyone who has supported us and donated to this crowdfund.   

“This judgment would act like a binding treaty imposed by the court on 32 Governments, requiring them to rapidly accelerate their climate mitigation efforts. It would be a game changer.” 

- Gerry Liston, GLAN Senior Lawyer

The youth-Applicants remain hopeful that this case will compel governments to act. Stand with the six youth-Applicants bravely bringing this case by spreading the word on social media - your support is so important in helping us reach our goal.

Together we can do this - we look forward to updating you from Strasbourg! 

Update 8

Global Legal Action Network

Aug. 21, 2023

Our landmark climate hearing is next month!

Europe is experiencing heat and weather extremes like never before, with wildfires and heatwaves disastrously becoming the norm. Governments are failing to take the urgent and necessary action to avert a climate catastrophe.  

The six Portuguese children and young adults are preparing to head to the European Court of Human Rights and challenge 32 governments in court next month, a daunting prospect! We have only been able to support them in this fight for their rights with your help, and we kindly ask you once again in the lead up to the court date to show your support for the young people by sharing this crowdfund and helping us reach our goal. 

If successful, these 32 countries would be legally bound, not only to ramp up their emissions cuts, but also to tackle their overseas contributions to climate change, including their exports of fossil fuels.  

Your continued support is crucial to the success of this historic climate case, together we can make a difference. Thank you! 

Update 7

Global Legal Action Network

April 27, 2023

The Court have announced a hearing date for September!

The Court has just announced a hearing date for our case.  On 27th September 2023, GLAN and six Portuguese youths will stand before the Grand Chamber at the European Court of Human Rights, calling out 32 European governments for failing to take action on climate change.

The next five months are crucial as we prepare to demand these governments make vital changes to cut their emissions, change fossil fuels practices and implement policies that will help slow the rising climate.

Help us build momentum and maximise pressure on the Court to rule in favour of curbing climate change.  Please donate to the final push towards the biggest climate case of all time. 

Update 6

Global Legal Action Network

July 1, 2022

A Major Development!

The European Court of Human Rights has referred our case to the 17-judge Grand Chamber. Only a tiny fraction of cases – 0.03% – which the Court believes raise the most serious issues are sent to the Grand Chamber. And it now means that Cláudia, Catarina, Martim, Sofia, André and Mariana will see their case heard by 17 judges in Strasbourg, hopefully before the end of 2022. Never before have so many States had to defend them themselves before any international court or body. So this will be a hearing of unprecedented scale on an issue of unprecedented consequence.

As we stand on the cusp of securing a decision from Europe’s highest human rights court which compels European governments to take the radical action needed to halt the climate crisis, we ask for your continued support.

Update 5

Global Legal Action Network

Oct. 28, 2021

We have a date from the Court!

In our last update we explained how we expected to receive all 33 government replies to our arguments during July. We eventually received them in late August and since then have been extremely busy digesting over well over 15,000 pages of legal arguments and evidence.

The Court has granted us until 12 January 2022 to submit our counter-responses. Our legal team have been carefully building this phase of our case and securing new evidence. With extra resources required for this intensive work we continue to seek your support. 

Our team will also be attending COP26 . This will be a unique opportunity to build support for our case and to connect with other legal teams who seek urgent action on climate change.

Update 4

Global Legal Action Network

June 10, 2021

Youth4ClimateJustice: Progress Update

In our last update, we indicated that, as well as refusing the defendant governments’ requests to reverse its decision to fast-track this case, the Court allowed them an extension to submit their defences to the 27th May. We are still to receive these defences as the Court has permitted the governments until the 5th July to translate their defences into the official languages of the Court (English or French). We have been using the extra time available to us to assemble the strongest possible evidence and to strengthen our legal team. We now have an extremely strong team of fifteen lawyers made up of nine barristers and six lawyers working exclusively on the case within GLAN. 

In another important development, a number of high-profile organisations and individuals submitted very supportive “third party interventions” in this case. They include, the European Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights and the Environment and on Toxic Substances and Human Rights, Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Save the Children (among many others). These interventions are available on our website here:

Please continue to support the youth-applicants in their major legal battle by supporting and sharing this crowdfund.

Thank you!

Update 3

Global Legal Action Network

March 1, 2021

Court reject's government efforts to overturn 'urgent' status of case

In another significant step towards a ground-breaking legal victory, the European Court of Human Rights has rejected a coordinated effort by the defendant governments in this case to overturn the Court's decision to fast-track the case "on the basis of the urgency and importance of the issues raised".

Following the decision to fast-track the case, all 33 governments wrote to the Court arguing that the youth-applicants are not exposed to imminent danger and therefore that the case should not be treated as urgent. They also sought an opportunity to argue that the case should be declared inadmissible without their climate policies being subjected to scrutiny. But the Court refused both requests!

It did however grant the defendant States an extension to the 27th May to respond to the youth-applicants' case.

Please continue to support the youth-applicants in their major legal battle by supporting and sharing this crowdfund.

Thank you!

Update 2

Global Legal Action Network

Feb. 2, 2021

GLAN team expands as government defences are due in weeks

We are now weeks away from receiving the defences of the 33 States which Sofia, André, Cláudia, Martim, Mariana and Catarina have taken their case against. They are due on the 26th February. Together with reports and other material they include with their defences, this material could come to thousands of pages in total. GLAN has prepared by hiring six outstanding researchers to support the major effort that will be involved in responding to all 33 States’ defences. We have also expanded our team of barristers.

The importance of this upcoming phase of the case cannot be overestimated. Please continue to support the youth-applicants in their major legal battle by supporting and sharing this crowdfund.

Thank you!

Update 1

Global Legal Action Network

Nov. 29, 2020

Our case clears major hurdle as court recognises “importance and urgency"

On November 30th 2020, the European Court of Human Rights announced it is fast-tracking our climate case. The court also “communicated” the case to the 33 defendant countries which requires each one of them to respond to our complaint by the end of February 2021. Only a very small minority of cases filed with the Court get this far. This is a major development!


Now the six youth-applicants and their legal team have to respond to the defenses of 33 states and their lawyers. We are working with climate experts to mobilise the evidence needed to do this. Please help the youth-applicants in this crucial stage of their case by supporting and sharing this crowdfund.

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