Young People vs UK Gov: Right to Life & the Paris Agreement
EUROPEAN COURT RULES RIGHT TO LIFE CASE “INADMISSIBLE”
In a brief decision, three judges of the European Court of Human Rights, have ruled inadmissible a claim against the British government for failing to take practical and effective measures to tackle the climate crisis.
Three young claimants, Kobina Jerry Amokwandoh (24), Adetola Onamade (26) and Marina Xochitl Tricks (22), British citizens, who have family in Afrika and Abya Yala (the Americas, including the Caribbean and Latin America), together with the climate justice charity, Plan B, had argued that the British government’s active support for the carbon economy together with its failure to take essential measures of climate mitigation, education, adaptation and reparation, violates their rights to life and to family life.
The claimants had adduced substantial evidence relating to the British Government’s failure to conform to the principles of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, including from the Government’s own statutory Climate Change Committee (In the words of the Committee: “The targets (Britain) set are not going to be achieved by magic”; “We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices”; “UK plans have failed to prepare for even the minimum climate risks faced”.
They also highlighted the City of London’s role in supporting 15% of global 1 carbon emissions and the estimate that FTSE100 companies are driving the world towards 4˚C warming – genocide for the younger generations and the global South. They had detailed past, present and predicted impacts on themselves and their families arising from the Government’s policies.
The panel of judges, which included the UK judge, Tim Eike, failed to provide any reasoning in support of their decision beyond a statement that the case “did not disclose any appearance of a violation of the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention
The UK Government has a legal obligation to safeguard the lives and family lives of its people and to do so without discrimination (Convention Articles 2, 8 and 14).
That means taking practical and effective measures to tackle the extreme threat from climate change, in particular by:
- reducing emissions in line with the 1.5˚C Paris objective
- preparing for the impacts of climate change (including by providing the public with good information)
- aligning public and private finance flows to the 1.5˚C Paris objective
- making the polluter pay by ensuring there are effective mechanisms for the victims of climate change to obtain justice and reparation.
But even according to the Government’s own statutory adviser, the Climate Change Committee, the Government is failing systematically on all counts. In the words of the Committee: “The targets (Britain) set are not going to be achieved by magic”; “We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices”; “UK plans have failed to prepare for even the minimum climate risks faced”.
Nor does the Government deny that the City of London is the arch financier of the global carbon economy, estimated to support at least 15% of carbon emissions internationally; nor that FTSE100 investments are driving warming towards 4˚C, which would be genocide for the younger generation and genocide for the Global South.
There is overwhelming evidence that the Paris Agreement temperature limit of 1.5˚C is humanity’s lifeline. The Government’s own guidance on Climate and Health quotes the Lancet as follows:
“The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.”
Nevertheless in March of this year, the Court of Appeal refused to hear the Claimant’s case on the basis that the Paris Agreement was irrelevant:
“The fundamental difficulty which the Claimants face is that there is no authority from the European Court of Human Rights on which they can rely, citing the Paris Agreement as being relevant to the interpretation of the ECHR, Articles 2 and 8 [the rights to life and to family life]”.
It also ruled that the fact that the family life of the three young people bringing the claim is inextricably linked to communities on the frontline of the crisis in the Global South was irrelevant to determining the scope of their right to family life, despite the prohibition against discrimination in safeguarding Convention rights.
So in July 2022 we took our claim against the UK Government to the European Court of Human Rights.
Who’s bringing the case?
The case is being led by three young British Citizens, Kobina Jerry Amokwandoh (22), Adetola Onamade (24) and Marina Tricks (20), who have family in Afrika and Abya Yala (the Americas, including the Caribbean and Latin America), together with Plan B. Tim Crosland, Director of Plan B, is also an individual claimant in the case, standing up for the rights of his children, one of whom is too young to participate in the democratic process or to take legal action on his own behalf
12 July 2022: Claim to European Court of Human Rights
18 March 2022: Court of Appeal ruling
29 December 2021: We file appeal to the Court of Appeal (see Appeal skeleton argument)
21 December 2021: High Court judgment
Statement of Facts and Grounds
Government’s Summary Grounds of Defence
Court order granting us permission to admit evidence of Climate Change Committee reports
Government response to additional evidence
Court order – refusal of permission
Pre-action letter sent to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, 12 December 2020
Government’s response to pre-action letter, 14 December 2020
Global Majority Vs: A Reparatory Justice Case of Law as Resistance for Planet Repairs
21 December 2021: Press release
As featured in C4 Dispatches, “How Green is the Government?“. See trailer.
“UK says a failure to act on the climate ‘is justified’”, Climate News Network, 6 August 2021
“Kids are taking governments to court over climate. And they are starting to win“, CNN, 9 May 2021
“UK students sue government over human rights impact of climate crisis”, Guardian, 30 April 2021
New Youth Climate Lawsuit Launched Against UK Government on Five Year Anniversary of Paris Agreement
“However, the UK’s hosting of the meeting could be partially overshadowed by news fresh legal action has been launched against the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak over the government’s ongoing financing of high carbon infrastructure.
A trio of young Brits – Adetola Onamade, Marina Tricks, and Jerry Amokwandoh, aged 19 to 22 – allege the government’s ongoing support of fossil fuels at home and abroad constitute a violation of their rights to life and to family life, a violation of the Paris Agreement, and a violation of international law.”
Press release, 12 December 2020
The materials below relate to an earlier pre-action letter, focussed on the Government’s bailouts for polluters
7 July letter, warning of legal action
21 July, Pre-action protocol letter
7 August, Gov response re polluter bailouts
10 August, Gov response re funding for fossil fuel project in Mozambique
Legal action threatened over Boris Johnson’s ‘unlawful’ green recovery plans, Guardian, 7 July
UK premier faces court over Covid-19 recovery, Climate News Network, 10 July
Campaigners launch legal challenge against UK’s green recovery plans, Guardian, 21 July
Climate Campaigners Launch Legal Challenge to ‘Catastrophic’ Government Recovery Package, Desmog, 22 July
Legal threat escalates over government’s ‘reckless’ company bailouts, Business Green, 13 August
UK: Paris climate treaty has no domestic effect, Climate News Network, 14 August