Climate Change and children’s rights

Sacchi et al. v. Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Climate change is a global threat to human rights with children bearing the brunt of its consequences. When several child climate activists from around the world sought advice as to how the legal system could address this existential problem, Hausfeld looked to the protections of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the world’s most widely ratified human rights treaty, as one possible mechanism to address a global problem on a global scale.

The science of climate change is relatively well known, yet global policy and legal structures have not adequately responded to the threat and its disproportionate impact on children: the idea that climate change is a “children’s rights crisis” became the organizing principle of the legal strategy Hausfeld put together. 

Representing 16 child activists from 12 countries, including Greta Thunberg from Sweden, Hausfeld partnered with co-counsel Earthjustice, an NGO with an extensive history advocating for global environmental justice. We crafted an action before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child under the fundamental right to life and a healthy environment. Fusing together international human rights and environmental law, we developed a legal argument that five states—Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey—who are regional leaders and parties to the treaty, owe obligations to children inside and outside their borders to prevent the devastating consequences of their greenhouse gases.

Relying on the latest climate science, our case exposes that these countries are not reducing their share of global emissions on a path that would limit global warming to 1.5°C above 1990 levels. Hausfeld worked with internationally recognized climate scientists—Joeri Rogelj of the Grantham Institute in London, and Climate Analytics in Berlin—and commissioned expert reports for each Respondent country to document their excessive emissions and their policies and practices that continue to promote global warming. We also worked with legal scholars in each of the five respondent countries to marshal the necessary legal arguments that only the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child can address the global nature of the case. Finally, the children’s claim has been supported by a powerful amicus brief filed by the present and former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, David Boyd and John Knox.

This case is an example of the type of work Hausfeld is uniquely situated to perform—an innovative international effort merging legal precedents with specialized scientific disciplines, to advance human rights and environmental protection through the legal system. 

DISCLAIMER: This material is distributed by Hausfeld LLP on behalf of Environmental Youth Activists.  Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, DC.