PORTUGAL: Portuguese youth bring climate case to the European Court of Human Rights

Extract of article published by Amnesty on 26/09/2023 – accessible here.

Six young people from Portugal will present a landmark case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) tomorrow, 27 September, arguing that countries are breaching their human rights by failing to do enough to protect them from climate change.

If they are successful, the 27 EU member states, as well the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Turkey, could be legally required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Amnesty International is among the groups which filed a written submission to the court, arguing that governments are obligated to protect human rights internationally through their climate policies.

Mandi Mudarikwa, Amnesty International’s Head of Strategic Litigation, said:

“As in many other places, young people are leading the way and demonstrating that there are legal avenues through which climate justice can be achieved. This case is hugely significant but is only one of several underway to ensure that everyone’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is protected.

“Like so many others around the world, the applicants are already directly experiencing health impacts from climate change as increasing heat extremes have restricted their ability to spend time outdoors, exercise, sleep and concentrate properly. Some also suffer from conditions like asthma, worsened by lower air quality caused by extreme heat, forest fires and emissions from burning fossil fuels.”

“This generation, and their children, will face the brunt of the unfolding climate disaster. It is vital that states act now to stop this catastrophe escalating and honour their obligations to try and keep the average temperature rise this century to below 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels. This will require phasing out fossil fuels.”


During the case, Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 31 Other States, the court will consider the applicants’ argument that their rights under the following Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights are being violated:

• Their right to life (Article 2)

• The right to be free from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3)

• Their right to privacy and family life (Article 8)

• Their right to be free from discrimination on grounds of age (Article 14) in conjunction with Article 2 and/or Article 8.

A decision could be made within a few months. As rulings of the ECtHR are binding to the states concerned, it could influence other cases before domestic courts in Europe, and strengthen future climate cases brought at a national level.