This case was brought by a group of six young people, acting together as the ‘Youth for Climate Justice’, against 33 Council of Europe Member States. Theirs is the first climate case to come before the ECtHR. In their application, the six applicants, who are aged between 8 and 21, argue that the 33 respondent States have failed to comply with their positive obligations under Articles 2 and 8 of the Convention, read in the light of the commitments made under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. They claim that their right to life (Art. 2 ECHR) is being threatened by the effects of climate change in their home State of Portugal, including through the harms caused by forest fires. Moreover, they claim that their right to respect for their private and family life under Art. 8 ECHR is being threatened by heatwaves that force them to spend more time indoors. They also note their anxiety about their uncertain future, and the fact that, as young people, they stand to experience the worst effects of climate change. They accordingly allege a violation of Article 14 ECHR (non-discrimination), given the particular impacts of climate change on their generation. According to the applicants, the absence of adequate measures to limit global emissions constitutes, in itself, a breach of the obligations incumbent on States.
This is the first climate application brought before the European Court of Human Rights, and it was brought with the support of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN). The issues raised here are novel in the Strasbourg context. In addition, in communicating the case, the Court also proprio motu raised an issue under Article 3 ECHR, the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.
None. This case was brought directly to the ECtHR. The applicants submit that, given the complexity of the case and their limited financial means, as well as the limited prospects of success before domestic instances, requiring them to exhaust the domestic remedies in each of the 33 respondent States would impose an excessive and disproportionate burden on them.
On 29 June 2022, the 7-judge Chamber to which the case had originally been allocated relinquished jurisdiction over it in favour of the Court’s 17-judge Grand Chamber. Relinquishment is possible where a case either (a) raises a serious question affecting the interpretation of the Convention or its Protocols, or (b) might lead to a result inconsistent with the Court’s case-law (Rule 72, paras 1-2 of the Rules of Court).
In February 2023, the Court announced that it would hold a public Grand Chamber hearing in this case, along with two other climate cases pending before it (Carême v. France and KlimaSeniorinnen and Others v. Switzerland). It announced that it would adjourn the remaining climate cases pending before it in the meantime. The oral stage in these three cases is staggered: Carême and KlimaSeniorinnen were heard on 29 March 2023, while the hearing in Duarte Agostinho was heard by the same composition of the Grand Chamber on 27 September 2023.
Grand Chamber hearing:
A hearing in this case was held on 27 September 2023. A webcast of the hearing is available here.
During the hearing, the respondent States pooled their submissions to a large extent, with additional arguments from the Netherlands, Portugal, and Turkiye. Third-party interveners also received leave to appear during the oral hearing, namely the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, the EU’s European Commission, and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI). The substance of the hearing focused largely on admissibility issues, namely victim status, the (non-)exhaustion of domestic remedies and the extraterritoriality of Convention obligations. The judges also asked a number of questions to the parties before retiring to consider the admissibility and merits of the case.
Implementation measures taken:
Type of Forum:
Status of case:
Communicated by the Court on 30 November 2020. Relinquished to the Grand Chamber on 29 June 2022. Grand Chamber hearing held on 27 September 2023.
Suggested case citation:
ECtHR, Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Other Member States, no. 39371/20, Communicated Case, 30 November 2020, relinquished to the Grand Chamber on 29 June 2022.
For more information on this case, see the following links.
- For more background on the case and profiles on the applicants, click here: https://youth4climatejustice.org/.
- For all of the case documents, including the submissions from the respondent States and the third-party interveners, see here.
- For analyses of the Grand Chamber hearing, see this post on our own blog by Viktoriya Gurash, or this post on Verfassungsblog by Corina Heri.
5 October 2023