23 May 2019

'People's Climate Case' involving Fijian family dismissed

1:38 pm on 23 May 2019

A Fijian family involved in an international climate case has been told they have no right to go to court to challenge the EU's climate target.

A high tide across Ejit Island in Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands on March 3, 2014, causing widespread flooding. Officials in the Marshall Islands blamed climate change for severe flooding in the Pacific nation's capital Majuro.

Photo: AFP

They're among ten families from around the world suing European authorities over the inadequacy of the target.

The European General Court has dismissed the People's Climate Case, as it has been dubbed, on procedural grounds.

The families involved in the case, with the backing of German charity Protect the Planet, come from Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Kenya and Fiji.

They include cattle-herders in Kenya, lavender farmers in France and forest owners in Portugal.

Alongside the Swedish Saami Youth Association, Sáminuorra, they sued the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, claiming that the EU target to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030, as compared to 1990 levels, is too low to prevent a climate crisis and failed to protect their fundamental rights.

In the Pacific, the Qaloibau family - living in Natewa Bay on Fiji's Vanua Levu - are reliant on subsistence farming, fishing and ecotourism, according to court documents.

The documents say the family has observed a range of climate change impacts over the past decade including coral bleaching which has depleted fish stocks and hurt tourism, which is also a key source of livelihood for them.

The family had been affected by cyclones and their village of Naqaravatu was designated for potential relocation due to rising sea levels.

The court ruled the claimaints had no access to the court due to not meeting the critiera of being "sufficiently and directly" affected by the policies.

But the judges acknowledged that "every individual is likely to be affected one way or another by climate change."

The families plan to appeal to the European Court of Justice.

"The UN have repeatedly acknowledged that protecting the climate is a necessity for human rights protection," Gerd Winter, lawyer for the case said.

"Access to courts is a vital component to ensure human rights are upheld.

"We hope that this will be recognised by the European Court of Justice on appeal," he said.

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