Young people have cranked up the pressure all year on world leaders in an attempt to get them to address climate change. In September, 16 teenagers filed a petition against five countries for violating their rights. The petition is in the process of wending its way through an international review process, but those same petitioners have put two more countries on watch.
Earlier this week, the same group of kids, including person of the year Greta Thunberg, sent letters to the governments of Canada and Norway arguing they were also to blame for screwing up the future. The two countries have talked a good climate game while continuing to lean on fossil fuels as the cornerstones of their respective economies.
“Canada and Norway in the past have professed to be leaders in responding to the climate emergency,” Michael Hausfeld, the lawyer who is handling the petition for the group, told Earther. “Yet both of them recently announced expansions of production and exports. It’s the opposite direction, particularly from a leader.”
The letters obtained by Earther don’t mince words. The subject alone refers to Canada and Norway’s “International Treaty Violations on Climate Change.” Each then goes on to chronicle how the two countries are failing to address climate change. Though Canada has put a price on carbon and declared a climate emergency, the government also bought an embattled pipeline and continues to support expanded oil sands production in Alberta. Norway has also put a price on carbon and begun to divest its $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund—accrued largely through oil production—from oil and gas. But the country’s state-owned oil company continues to expand offshore drilling, which accounts for the majority of the country’s emissions.
The letters end by asking each country to honor their “responsibilities to children everywhere” and “stop prioritizing short-term economic gains over the future of its children and all children around the world.” That means rapidly drawing down emissions and exhibiting leadership on a global stage.
Canada and Norway are hardly alone in talking a good talk while not walking a good walk. A recent report found many countries have made climate pledges while also ramping up oil and gas production. If the world keeps going down this path, the climate will warm well past 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). And world governments have so far failed to come to an agreement on major issues at the latest round of international climate talks set to wrap on Friday, continuing 25 years of futility to effectively turn the tide on global carbon emissions. That will leave future generations with a dramatically diminished future with few coral reefs, higher seas, deadlier heat waves, and more unruly weather.
The petition the youth filed in September named Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey as countries that were violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child by continuing to engage in carbon-polluting activities. Those five countries are among a group of 51 nations that have signed what’s known as the third Optional Protocol of the convention, and any child in the world can file a complaint against them to heard by a panel of 18 experts. If the panel agrees that climate change is interfering with the children’s rights, then the countries named in the complaint must take the action needed to draw down their emissions or exit the treaty.
Hausfeld said that Canada and Norway aren’t on the list of countries that have agreed to the third Optional Protocol.
“The letters are sent as an indication of the concern of the young people,” he said. “If the countries respond, we have established the fact that young people are extremely concerned and active in watching everyone’s conduct going forward, particularly during this year. If they don’t, then the other courses will be considered.”
In short, if you think 2019 was an intense year of youth confronting adults, 2020 is already shaping up to be even more so.