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'It's really scary': indigenous Europeans on why they are taking the EU to court over climate change

'It's really scary': indigenous Europeans on why they are taking the EU to court over climate change
By Rachael Kennedy
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"These climate targets obviously cannot protect us." Susannah Israelsson, from northern Europe's indigenous Saami population, spoke to Euronews about why her peoples are taking the EU to court over its climate change policies.


Several families from an indigenous population in northern Europe are taking the European Union to court over what they perceive as a lack of action on climate change.

Susanna Israelsson is the vice president of Sáminuorra, a youth association for the indigenous Saami population in northern Europe. She told Euronews that the EU's existing targets to tackle global warming "obviously cannot protect us".

The families are part of what Climate Action Network Europe says is a growing number of groups taking governments to court over their response to global warming. 

The Saami peoples inhabit the region of Sapmi, which stretches from northern Norway to the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

Reindeer herding is one of the most important parts of Saami culture and livelihoods, which, Israelsson tells Euronews, is now in peril due to the changing climate.

"I come from a reindeer herding family myself," Israelsson began, adding that in recent years her father and uncles had shared their worries of not being able to predict the coming seasons: "what it is going to be looking like; what the grazing grounds will be looking like"

"In my district, we had a lot of natural streams that would totally dry out in summer," she said. And "the quick changes in weather that cause snow to freeze and melt, and freeze again, and melt again, creates this layer of ice, making it hard for the reindeer to dig through."

When the reindeer are unable to penetrate the ice, they are unable to find food, she adds. The same unpredictable weather conditions also have an adverse effect on other important aspects of her population's culture, such as hunting and fishing.

"It's stressing. It makes many of us really wonder where we are going. It's really scary, in so many ways."

Legal action against the European Union

Feeling scared and unheard, the Sami Youth Association Sáminuorra, along with ten other families from France, Germany, Italy, Portugal Romania, Kenya and Fiji have filed a lawsuit against the European Union for its "inadequate" targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These targets, which world leaders agreed to back in 2015, were set to limit a global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To keep to this goal, greenhouse gas emissions would need to be cut by 45% by 2030, according to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in October.

"In our point of view, [the targets] are inadequate because climate targets obviously cannot protect us," Israelsson said.

While Israelsson and the ten families from Europe, Kenya and Fiji await further details on their legal proceedings against the European Union, world leaders are at the UN's COP24 climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, in a bid to save the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

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