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The Margin: Face of climate-change protest Greta Thunberg joins lawsuit against Sweden

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Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, arguably the world’s most famous climate activist, is part of a lawsuit filed against her government that says officials are falling far short in slowing dangerous global warming.

The suit, filed in Stockholm on Friday, urges the country’s high court to require that the government undertake its “fair share” of measures to keep greenhouse-gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In Paris in 2015, global leaders set a voluntary target to hold atmospheric warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius and ideally to no more than 1.5 degrees, equivalent to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The latter target is largely used today by governments and private companies when setting goals for shifting to low- or no-carbon operations in the coming years and decades, including cutting use of fossil fuels
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Watchdog groups say the next few years will require concrete signs that those pledges have turned to action, especially as costs of drought, severe heat and floods jump, along with the cost of insurance. Global warming has been greatly accelerated in recent decades by the burning of coal, oil
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and gas.

The Swedish suit involves Thunberg and more than 600 others who claim that Sweden’s climate policies violate the nation’s constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. 

“The Swedish state fails to meet the constitutional requirement to promote sustainable development leading to a good environment for present and future generations,” the group said in a statement.  

Thunberg, who will turn 20 early next year, has led a youth revolt that began when she staged a solo protest outside the Swedish parliament in 2018. She has since addressed the United Nations, traveled around the world by wind-powered sailboat and conducted numerous interviews with international media.

Thunberg skipped this year’s U.N.’s Conference of the Parties, or COP27 — the latest in a series of summits aimed at keeping the focus on the Paris 1.5-degree pledge — which wrapped up in Egypt on Nov. 20. She called the conference a form of “greenwashing” that pushes climate-change talk but doesn’t hold participants fully responsible for their emissions.

Thunberg and others say that older people in power only consider the near term and not the hotter Earth that their and later generations will inherit. That belief has been tested this year as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has roiled global energy markets and prompted fears of shortages of heating fuel this winter.

Four years after launching her “School Strike for the Climate,” Thunberg said earlier this month that she is ready to pass the baton to those on the front lines of climate change. At COP27, wealthy nations did agree to spend more to cover loss and damage in the developing nations that supply mining and energy resources but pollute far less than their developed counterparts.

Read: Greta surprises Glastonbury: Stop the oil ‘loopholes,’ she tells roaring crowd

The suit in Sweden has some international precedent. In a high-profile case in the Netherlands in 2019, that country’s highest court ruled that the government had a legal obligation to take action to mitigate global warming. 

And in 2021, a Dutch court ruled that  Royal Dutch Shell
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Europe’s largest oil company, must accelerate its efforts to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions to tackle climate change. It was the first time that a court anywhere in the world had exerted this power over a private concern in regard to climate change. The Hague ruled that Shell was “obliged” to reduce the carbon-dioxide emissions caused by its activities by 45% by the end of 2030 as compared with 2019.

The suit in Sweden takes a different tack than some recent actions by climate activists, in which protestors urging governments and companies to stop drilling more oil have tossed food and other liquids on famous artworks at major museums, including Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in London.

On Thursday, police said four protesters glued themselves to the ground near a runway at Berlin’s airport and two others cycled across the premises.

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