Tag Archive for: wildfires

Governments are trivializing young people’s concerns about the climate crisis 

Next Wednesday – on the 27th of September –  32 countries are being taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg by six Portuguese youngsters. They will argue that the nations’ policies to tackle global heating are inadequate and in breach of their human rights obligations.

After another summer in which wildfires raged across the Mediterranean, the young people will plead that the government’s failure to act quickly enough to reduce emissions is in violation of their human rights. It is the biggest climate case yet taken across the globe, unprecedented in its scale and consequence.

Lawyers of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) – representing the six young people taking the legal action – are to present evidence that the current policies of the 32 countries mean the world is on track to reach a catastrophic 3 degrees of global heating within their lifetimes.

A senior lawyer of GLAN said the action was being taken against the 32 nations in Europe because they all contributed to the climate crisis. ‘These young people face a future of unbearable heat; the IPCC report describes these conditions as unliveable,’ he declared. ‘Yet these governments are trivializing their claims’. The Portuguese government, for example, stated that the claim consisted only of ‘future fears, constituting only mere assumptions or general probabilities.’

Aged from 11 to 24, the Portuguese youngsters – who began their action six years ago – say they were driven to act by their experiences in one of the most destructive and deadliest wildfires in the country’s history that ripped through the Leiria region in 2017, killing 66 people and destroying about 20,000 hectares of forest.

‘The thing that scares me most is that it has all got worse since the fires in 2017,’ one of the claimants said.
‘We have had record-breaking heatwaves since then but European governments are choosing not to take their part.’

Crowdfunded (https://www.crowdjustice.com) by people around the world who have donated more than £100,000, the six youngsters are seeking a binding ruling from the 17 judges to force the countries to rapidly escalate their emission reductions.
The countries named in action are the 27 members of the EU as well as Norway, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Turkey.

A victory would be groundbreaking as the decisions of the court are binding across Europe.

Enjoy the heat                       Aproveite o calor          (Pic Público/Sapo)

Large parts of the countries interior look spooky these days with charred trees and incinerated road signs.
40% off all wildfires in Europe this year occurred in Portugal, far more than in any other country.

Last summer schoolchildren from the Leiria region in central Portugal watched their district burn as a result of the most destructive and deadliest forest fires in the country’s history. The fires – which have been linked by some experts to climate change – have claimed the lives of at least 65 people and left hundreds injured.

“Climate change causes many problems, but if I had to name the one that worries me most, it would be the increase in the number of wildfires – especially this summer as the fires caused many deaths in our country”, says a boy of the group of children – aged between 6 and 14 – from Leiria, seeking crowdfunding to sue 47 European countries for their failure to tackle climate change, threatening their right to life.

These countries are collectively responsible for about 15% of global greenhouse emissions. They also hold a significant proportion of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves. The case is also being taken to court to raise public awareness about the shortcomings in government policies on climate change.

With the support of the NGO Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), the group of children taking action is seeking an initial £35,000 to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg The crowdfunding bid was published on the platform CrowdJustice https://www.crowdjustice.com ] and to date, just over half of the amount needed, has been pledged.

“Tragedies like this are becoming the new norm because governments are failing to make the necessary cuts to their greenhouse emissions”, according to a spokesman from GLAN.
“Instead of suing just Portugal, the case will be taken against all of the major emitters, which have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights.”

“The court will be asked two things. Firstly, that these 47 countries must significantly strengthen their emissions-cutting policies and secondly, that they must commit to keeping most of their existing fossil fuel reserves in the ground”.

A victory, in this case, would be ground-breaking as the decisions of the Court are binding across Europe.

Bom fim de semana                                                                                                                       ( photo’s SAPO)

Quando oiei a terra ardendo                        When I saw the burned land
Qua fogueira de São João                              Like the ‘bonfire of Saint John’
Eu perguntei a Deus do céu, uai                   I asked the Lord in heaven, ai
Por que tamanha judiação?                          Do I deserve this suffering?

Que braseiro, que fornaia                              What a heat, what a furnace
Nem um pê de prantação                               Not even a single plant survives
Por farta d’água, perdi meu gado               For lack of water, I lost my cattle
moreu de sede meu alazão                            My best horse died of thirst

https://youtu.be/DNBCw7r0mwU                 [ Asa Branca, Luiz Gonzaga, 1947 ]

July turned out to be one of the driest months in the past 17 years. Water levels in dams and basins have dropped substantially.

Last week the Meteorological Institute classified 99% of the land as dry – 80% even as very or extremely dry – especially the Southern and Eastern part of the country.

So far government’s response has been limited with the creation of an ‘Interdepartmental Committee on Drought Monitoring.
Experts, like João Deniz from the National Confederation of Agriculture, are concerned. ‘The situation is becoming worse every day. The government is far too optimistic. They are no farmers and should be more worried.’
He remembers the severe drought in 2005, when – South of the river Tagus – more than 120 cattle died every day due to lack of rain. Cereal production fell by 60%, wine with 30% and the production of honey was almost eliminated.

The drought of 2005 hasn’t learned us a lesson’, says Nelson Geada, president of the Portuguese Association of Water Distribution and Drainage. ‘Things tend to get worse due to climate change. One-third of the country already faces degradation and aridity of soils, especially the interior of the Algarve and the Alentejo. It is the time that the country starts preparing itself for the future, instead of praying for rain, like people used to do.’

Quercus, an environmental NGO is also critical on government policy. ‘Drought not only compromises agriculture and livestock but lack of vegetation also leads to an increase of CO₂ and further global warming, wildfires, poverty, and emigration.

Although water is scarce, wine is not!
Portugal has the highest wine consumption in the world with a mean intake of 54 liters per person per year ( followed closely by France with 52 liters ).

Wine and not water has to keep Portugal going this summer. Not dry wine of course.

Bom fim de semana
                                                                                                                                 (photos Público/SAPO)