In a speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday, a 16-year old climate activist promised that her generation will never forgive today's leaders if they don't take action. Drawing the line, Greta Thunberg filed a climate crisis lawsuit alongside 15 other kids that same day, alleging five countries violated their human rights by not responding aggressively enough to climate change. Though Thunberg has become a household name, the trailblazing kids fighting alongside her shouldn't be overshadowed.
The lawsuit was filed against Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, Germany, and France, and claims that these countries are in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a widely-ratified international human rights treaty. The plaintiffs say that all five countries have known about the science around climate change for "decades;" that each of these five countries has "contributed to climate change;" and that "each respondent has failed to use all available legal, diplomatic, and economic means to protect children from the life-threatening carbon pollution of the major emitters," among other things.
At least a few of those countries were present at the Climate Summit on Monday. Per The New York Times, Germany was one of the only nations to reveal a new, more aggressive plan to combat climate change; the $60 billion initiative for the country aims to help it cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030.
But as Thunberg noted in her speech on Monday, cutting gas emissions even by 50% won't guarantee global safety. She said, "The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control." You can read her full speech here.
Though Thunberg might be the most well-known child named in the lawsuit, these other activists deserve your attention too. Here are the names of the 15 other children who filed the lawsuit with Thunberg, as well as their country of origin:
- Chiara Sacchi (Argentina)
- Raina Ivanova (Germany)
- David Ackley III (Marshall Islands)
- Carlos Manuel (Palau)
- Litokne Kabua (Marshall Islands)
- Deborah Adegbile (Nigeria)
- Raslene Joubali (Tunisia)
- Ayaka Melithafa (South Africa)
- Ridhima Pandey (India)
- Ranton Anjain (Marshall Islands)
You can (and should) read each of their stories on the #ChildrenVsClimateCrisis website. Among other things, they explain how climate change has impacted their lives and how they've become involved in the fight at such a young age.
For example, Adegbile's bio reads in part,
Twelve-year-old Deborah (“Debby”) Adegbile has lived her entire life in Lagos, Nigeria...Every time it rains in Lagos, it floods...It becomes difficult to walk or commute by car, and the flooding gets so high that Debby’s parents must carry her and her siblings to school because they cannot walk in the high waters... As a result of these changes, Debby has become an advocate for ocean protection.
Anjain is from an entirely different part of the world, having grown up in the Marshall Islands. His quote on the site reads, “I don’t want to be underwater. I want future generations to experience what I experience, I want them to experience living on Ebeye. It still saddens me – I want them to experience the same things I did.”
When it comes down to it, these kids are absolutely not looking for money. In fact, they state that "no amount of money could compensate for the harm children are and will be suffering from climate change." Instead, they're asking that the petitioner, which in this case is the United Nations, both recognizes the roles these countries have played in climate change and more closely monitors how they address the crisis.
And if you're wondering why the lawsuit names those five countries in particular, there's a reason for that. Per CNN, these five countries are among the 44 who accepted a part of the Child Rights Convention that allows for complaints to be made against them. They're also some of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters. Other big greenhouse gas contributors, like the United States, haven't accepted that part of the treaty in the Child Rights Convention, so an official complaint can't be filed against them.