It looked like a long shot when 25 kids, aged 7 to 26, sued the government of Colombia for failing to protect the environment.
But after hearing the case, the country’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the children and now the government must come up with an action plan for stopping deforestation in the Amazon and escalate its fight against climate change, according to the human rights groups Dejusticia, which supported the plaintiff’s case.
Environmental and agricultural ministries across both national and local governments are required to take part in this project, Reuters reports.
“It is clear, despite numerous international commitments, regulations, and jurisprudence on the matter, that the Colombian State has not efficiently tackled the problem of deforestation in the Amazon,” the court said.
The judges said that the forest is an “entity subject of rights,” essentially conferring human rights upon the vast and varied ecosystem, according to Reuters.
“This is a historic ruling both nationally and internationally,” César Rodríguez Garavito, director of Dejusticia and the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
“At the national level, it categorically recognizes that future generations are subject to rights, and it orders the government to take concrete actions to protect the country and planet in which they live,” he added.
The outcome of the case could reverberate around the world: A series of cases, mostly led by youths, are taking off in multiple other countries, according to Reuters.
These cases could be bolstered by international agreements that countries entered.
Through the Paris Climate Agreement, 195 countries around the world have vowed to fight climate change. Although this particular agreement is voluntary in nature, the judges in Colombia viewed it as binding enough to invoke it in their ruling.
And as the effects of climate change become more apparent around the world, the argument made by young people that governments are threatening their future may gain momentum.
"Deforestation is threatening the fundamental rights of those of us who are young today and will face the impacts of climate change the rest of our lives," the plaintiffs wrote.
"We are at a critical moment given the speed at which deforestation is happening in the Colombian Amazon,” they added. “The government's lack of capacity and planning as well as its failure to protect the environment makes the adoption of urgent measures necessary."
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