‘We demand justice’: Austrian children take their own government to court over climate action

Image: vfgh.gv.at

A dozen children have filed a lawsuit with Austria’s top court seeking to force the government to ensure their constitutional rights are protected by taking tougher action against climate change.

A lawyer for the group of minors – aged from just five to 16 – said the case submitted to the Constitutional Court was based on a similar lawsuit in Germany that prompted the government there to set new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions two years ago, reports Associated Press (AP).

Their lawyer, Michaela Kroemer, said Austria’s climate law from 2011 did not sufficiently protect the plaintiffs from the life-threatening consequences of global warming. Specifically, she said the children’s right to ‘generational justice” – something which is guaranteed in the Austrian constitution – is breached by the country climate law.

Kroemer said the lawsuit was also backed by the Austrian section of youth climate group Fridays for Future – which was inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg – and financially supported through philanthropic donations.

‘Children have a right to active protection against the consequences’

“In Austria, children have their own very special constitutional rights,” she said. “These rights unequivocally state that the well-being of the children must also be protected in the interests of intergenerational justice. Children therefore have a right to active protection against the consequences of the climate crisis. A climate protection law that has no reduction targets and obligations violates these constitutional rights. The current sham climate protection makes the climate crisis a child crisis.

The group said: “Children’s rights are particularly well protected in Austria: they are part of the constitution. These rights are based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and are intended to guarantee that no other law will endanger our future,” says the group.

‘We demand intergenerational justice’

“However, the current climate protection law was introduced without taking these rights into account. Politicians have the task of curbing the effects of the man-made climate crisis by stopping global warming at +1.5°C. However, the Climate Protection Act does not lead to the necessary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and thus endangers our future.

“That is why we are fighting the unconstitutional passages of the Climate Protection Act before the Constitutional Court. We demand intergenerational justice,” it added.

The central task of the Austrian Constitutional Court is to ‘monitor compliance with the constitution’. It describes its function as being, on one hand, a ‘fundamental rights’ court and, on the other, one which examines whether laws passed by parliament remain within the framework of the constitution.

Fridays for Future hopes that the lawsuit will be dealt with and a decision taken by the end of June this year.

Author: Simon Weedy

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