Twelve minors on Tuesday filed a legal challenge with Austria’s top court accusing the government of failing to revise an “inadequate” climate protection law, saying it was not sufficiently protecting their constitutional rights.
A growing number of organizations and individuals around the world have turned to the courts to challenge what they see as government inaction on preventing climate change.
The Austrian lawsuit, the first of its kind in the nation, claims a law dating from 2011 is not ensuring that children are shielded from the consequences of global warming.
The challenge was being supported by Fridays for Future, the youth activist movement inspired by Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, a spokeswoman for the group told AFP.
“A law which lacks greenhouse gas reduction targets, clear responsibilities and an accountability mechanism clearly infringes these constitutional rights,” said Michaela Kroemer, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, aged five to 16 years old.
“The well-being of children must be protected also in terms of intergenerational justice,” she said.
Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler, of the Green party – the junior partner in Austria’s conservative-led coalition government – praised the “great commitment of young people to climate protection.”
“In our constitutional state, of course, everyone can always turn to the courts when it comes to the question of enforcing their rights,” she said.
“However, I see it as my responsibility to ensure that this is not necessary. And that’s exactly why I’m campaigning for a quick decision on the climate protection law.
“Of course, if I were solely responsible, we would already have one, but in a democracy, you need a majority for that.”
Several lawsuits by Greenpeace and the Austrian activist group Global 2000 have also accused the conservative-led government of inaction in the face of climate change.
In 2021, an Austrian with multiple sclerosis sued the government in the European rights court for failing to protect the climate, saying global warming had worsened his condition. A ruling was still pending, the Fridays for Future spokeswoman said.