Climate leader Greta Thunberg was among 636 young adults and children who submitted a class-action lawsuit against the Swedish government at a district court in Stockholm on Friday, arguing that the country’s right-wing leaders are failing to obey the Swedish constitution as they continue allowing planet-heating fossil fuel extraction.
About 2,000 people marched through Stockholm on Friday at the 223rd “school strike” against climate inaction—part of the global Fridays for Future movement Thunberg began in 2018 with a one-person protest outside Swedish Parliament.
Thunberg and her fellow plaintiffs symbolically delivered their lawsuit to the district court, following an earlier official filing by Aurora, the organization leading the suit.
“Today on Black Friday is the perfect day to sue the state over its insufficient climate policies,” Thunberg tweeted, referring to the holiday shopping day that originated in the U.S. “So that’s what we did.See you in court!”
School strike week 223. Today we are 636 young people in @auroramalet who are suing the Swedish state for insufficient climate action. Therefore we now marched from the parliament to the court.#FridaysForFuture #ClimateStrike #Aurora #ClimateTrials #UprootTheSystem @auroramalet pic.twitter.com/gatAMGPzcp— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) November 25, 2022
Sweden adopted a law in 2017 requiring the government to draw down its fossil fuel emissions to net-zero by 2045, but Statistics Sweden reported earlier this year that greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3% in 2021 compared to the previous year, driven by the transport sector.
The right-wing government that took power last month after September’s elections has proposed a budget for 2023 which would further increase emissions. It also eliminated the Ministry of Environment, which left climate action advocates expecting “huge cuts in green funding leading to a devastating impact on climate policies.”
“The Swedish state fails to meet the constitutional requirement to promote sustainable development leading to a good environment for present and future generations,” Aurora said in a statement Friday.
Ida Edling, a member of the organization, told Agence France Presse that the lawsuit is the first “large-scale case in the Swedish legal system.”
The lawsuit demands that the government take its “fair share” of global action to help limit planetary heating to 1.5°C above preindustrial temperatures, in line with the Paris climate agreement.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said in a report last month that there is currently “no credible pathway to 1.5°C in place” as governments continue to support fossil fuel extraction.
“If we win, there will be a verdict that says the Swedish state is required to do its share of the global measures needed for the world to meet the 1.5° target,” Edling told Al Jazeera.
On Friday, some of the plaintiffs carried a sign reading, “Now we sue the state” at the march through Stockholm.
2000 marscherar i Stockholm till stöd för de över 600 ungdomar som idag stämmer staten för att de inte behandlar klimatkrisen som en kris.#Aurora #UprootTheSystem #ClimateTrials pic.twitter.com/of7w7oo9eb— Auroramålet (@auroramalet) November 25, 2022
The plaintiffs are the latest climate campaigners to use the legal system to force policymakers to heed the warnings of energy experts and climate scientists.
The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled in 2019 that the government must cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25%.
Another case brought by six Portuguese youths is pending in the European Court of Human Rights, where the plaintiffs argued 33 countries, including Sweden, have violated human rights by failing to mitigate the climate emergency.