Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up

Greta Thunberg Leads Young People in Climate Complaint to UN (1)

Sept. 23, 2019, 3:00 PMUpdated: Sept. 23, 2019, 5:33 PM

A group of 16 children and teenagers, including Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, filed a legal complaint with the United Nations Sept. 23, accusing five countries of not doing enough to combat climate change.

The panel to which the children and teens are appealing, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, will now determine whether the complaint is actionable. If so, it will ask France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey to respond. Its suggestions aren’t legally binding.

The young people, ranging in age from 8 to 17, say those five nations have known about the risks of climate change for decades, but aren’t curbing emissions and are continuing to promote fossil fuels.

“The message we want to send is to say that we have had enough,” Thunberg said at a Sept. 23 news conference in New York.

The 16-year-old also said the children’s coalition wants to “raise awareness and to raise attention on this crisis, and to actually make it clear that it was 30 years ago that you signed the Convention of the Rights of the Child,” referring to a 1989 U.N. human rights treaty.

“And world leaders have failed to keep what they promised,” Thunberg continued. “They promised to protect our rights and they have not done that.”

‘Will Not Stand for Inaction’

None of the named countries is on track to meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets they spelled out in their Paris climate agreement pledges, according to Hausfeld LLP and Earthjustice, which are representing the children and wrote the complaint. The targets they laid out are also inadequate to begin with, the law firms said.

At the Sept. 23 news conference, Michael D. Hausfeld, chairman of Hausfeld LLP, said the five countries named in the complaint were chosen because they are large carbon emitters and are in a position to take immediate action on curbing their emissions.

The complaint coincides with the kickoff of Climate Week NYC. President Donald Trump made a surprise appearance at the U.N. Climate Action Summit shortly before the children’s press conference, but didn’t speak at the event.

(Updated with comments by Thunberg.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Lee in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Renee Schoof at