‘Now we sue the state’: Greta Thunberg joins activists in lawsuit against Swedish government

Climate activist Greta Thunberg holds a sign reading "Now we sue the State" at a protest in Stockholm on 25 November 2022.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg holds a sign reading "Now we sue the State" at a protest in Stockholm on 25 November 2022. Copyright Christine Ohlsson/TT News Agency via AP, File
By Angela Symons with AP
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A court gave the lawsuit the greenlight on Tuesday.

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Environmental activists, including Greta Thunberg, are suing the Swedish state for insufficient action on the climate crisis. 

The lawsuit was initiated by youth climate activists in November last year. On Tuesday 21 March, it was given the greenlight by a Swedish court. 

“The court has now issued a summons and the process is in full swing. Now the state must respond to the lawsuit,” an Instagram post announcing the action reads. “Climate action is a legal duty!”

Nacka District Court in Stockholm County has given the Swedish government three months to submit its response.

Why are young climate activists suing Sweden?

The lawsuit is being filed by the youth-led initiative Aurora. The group says on its website that “the Swedish state does not treat the climate crisis as a crisis.”

They say the Swedish government's climate targets lack ambition and exclude major sources of emissions. They also say existing targets are not being met.

Last year, more than 600 people under the age of 26 signed a document as the basis for the lawsuit. It stated that the country has violated its citizens' human rights with its climate policies. 

“The right to life, health and development guaranteed to us by Articles 2, 3, 8, 14 of the European Convention and Article 1 of the First Additional Protocol is endangered,” Aurora says on its website.

On 25 November 2022, hundreds of activists marched through the Swedish capital to the courthouse to file the lawsuit. Among them was Thunberg holding a sign reading “Now we sue the state”.

Christine Ohlsson/TT News Agency via AP, File
Climate activist Greta Thunberg attends a demonstration by youth-led organisation Aurora, in Stockholm, Sweden, 25 November 2022.Christine Ohlsson/TT News Agency via AP, File

“We in Aurora hold the state responsible for the lack of climate work," the group says on its site. “Through a court process, we must ensure that the state respects human rights.”

The action comes as scientists warn that chances are slipping away to limit future global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times. Earlier this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urged governments to drastically cut emissions without delay.

The court said that it could not currently provide any forecast as to when hearings may take place or when the case will be decided.

Have climate lawsuits been successful in the past?

Climate campaigners have launched numerous lawsuits against governments and companies in recent years, with mixed success.

In one of the most high-profile cases, Germany’s top court ruled in 2021 that the government had to adjust its climate targets to avoid unduly burdening the young. 

The German government reacted by bringing forward its target for ‘net zero’ emissions by five years to 2045 and setting more ambitious near-and-medium term steps to achieve that goal.

In October last year, a lawsuit launched by Greenpeace against the UK government ruled that its plan to cut carbon emissions is inadequate, and it must now come up with a better one.

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