Human rights bodies usually examine cases brought by individuals who have been impacted in a specific way by an act of their home State. By contrast, a new and atypical kind of case is currently emerging before domestic and international human rights bodies around the world. These are cases in which applicants allege that their human rights have been violated because of States’ and corporations’ failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These cases are atypical not only because of the number of potential victims involved and the global nature of climate change, but also because the harms in question are often still in the future. These cases push human rights bodies to evaluate political decisions and scientific evidence. They raise questions about how to balance economic and environmental interests, how to provide redress for large-scale or systemic problems, and whether it is appropriate to allow human rights bodies to accept claims in the public interest.

To date the European Court of Human Rights has never decided a climate change case. The first two applications, however, have been filed and communicated to the parties. This lecture discusses the most significant admissibility issues that these climate change cases will face before the European Court of Human Rights and show how the Court could ensure that these admissibility hurdles could be overcome and thus climate cases can finally receive full consideration on the merits.

This event was part of Berlin Science Week 2021 and organised by ALLEA – All European Academies.