A historic moment of epic proportions may be just ahead of us.
On the 27th of September, the European Court of Human Rights will consider a major climate case.
Six Portuguese citizens are suing 32 European countries for failing to cut greenhouse gas emissions – more specifically, their failure to meet the 1.5°C global warming limit set by the Paris Agreement. To achieve this, according to the UNFCCC, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030.
The plaintiffs accuse these governments of their inaction to tackle climate change on the basis that it will endanger their health and lives.
A judgement by the Dutch Supreme Court in a comparable case sparked similar lawsuits abroad. Even after 29 grounds of appeal by the Dutch government, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. In 2019, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld the decision under Articles 2 and 8 of the European Court of Human Rights.
The plaintiffs in this litigation are basing their argument on the “Principle of Effectiveness” of human rights legislation, which demands practical and effective rights protection.
The key objective here is to move beyond the bare minimum. Holding countries accountable for the bare minimum will negate the rights of the plaintiffs to live without major climate consequences.
The argument seeks to force governments to exceed their present efforts.
This means that for governments to comply, they will need to adopt more ambitious policies. More importantly, this precedent could be used as a clear mandate to make sweeping reforms at both EU and national levels.
So, perhaps governments will heed the famous words of Jack Welch:
“Change before you have to.”
Perhaps the historic moment isn’t this case, or even the next case. But there will be a historic moment. One way or another, there will be change – whether that is voluntary or involuntary. Governments, citizens, and businesses will start taking measures for a better world. Is your cleantech business ready to take advantage of the opportunities this will present?