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Greta Thunberg speaks during a climate demonstration in Milan on Oct. 1. Photo: Photo by Matteo Rossetti/Archivio Matteo Rossetti/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

A UN panel announced Monday that it cannot rule on a complaint by Greta Thunberg and other youth climate activists stating that inaction on climate change violates children's rights, the UN Human Rights Office said in a press release.

Why it matters: The complaint is part of a trend of legal suits invoking climate inaction as a human rights issue.

  • The UN Child Rights Committee did rule that countries bear responsibility for the impact of climate change, even to petitioners beyond their borders.
  • However, the panel said it couldn't rule in the case because the petitions should have been taken first to national courts.

Details: The complaint, filed in 2019 with the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, says that five countries — France, Turkey, Brazil, Germany and Argentina — had failed to curb carbon emissions despite known risks.

  • The petitioners, 16 youth climate activists hailing from 12 countries, argued that the named countries "failed to take necessary preventive measures to protect and [fulfill] children’s rights to life, health, and culture," according to the UN press release.

What they're saying: "Emitting States are responsible for the negative impact of the emissions originating in their territory on the rights of children — even those children who may be located abroad. The collective nature of the causes of climate change must not absolve a State from its individual responsibility,” said UN Child Rights Committee member Ann Skelton.

  • “When the climate disasters are even more severe than they are now, the Committee will severely regret not doing the right thing when they had the chance,” American petitioner Alexandria Villasenor said in a statement Monday.
  • “The Committee acknowledged that states are legally obligated to act, that our clients’ lives are at risk, and that time is running out. But they still closed the UN’s doors. So be it. The legal battle for the climate now returns to national courts,” said Scott Gilmore, the lead attorney for the petitioners.

Go deeper: In 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court set a precedent by ordering the country to drastically cut emissions.

Go deeper

What the initial UN Climate Summit attendance list reveals

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The UN Climate Summit set to begin Oct. 31 in Glasgow will bring an unprecedented combination of leaders for such an event (even Pope Francis!), and the likely absence of vital players — notably Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

Why it matters: The speeches and backroom meetings at COP26 between leaders on the summit's first two days will set the tone for the rest of the gathering. These will be moments when countries showcase any new pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the Paris Agreement's targets.

Mind the emissions gap

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The sprint to secure more stringent emissions reduction commitments ahead of the COP26 summit has petered out well short of the finish line, a new United Nations report out this morning concludes.

Driving the news: The "Emissions Gap" report offers a clear comparison between where emissions need to be to reach the Paris Agreement's goals, and where they actually are. It takes new and preexisting emissions pledges, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), into consideration.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 26, 2021 - Economy & Business

Sweetgreen weighs climate risk in IPO filing

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Eco-conscious salad chain Sweetgreen's new filing with regulators to go public offers a window onto how companies must grapple with climate risks to the food system.

Driving the news: Sweetgreen's paperwork, like other pre-IPO filings, lists potential headwinds. Climate change is among them.

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