Amnesty International says South Korea ruling on climate change case could set human rights precedent News
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Amnesty International says South Korea ruling on climate change case could set human rights precedent

Amnesty International said Monday that a South Korea’s Constitutional Court hearing set for Tuesday regarding four landmark climate change cases could set a “human rights precedent” for climate litigation.

The four cases were first heard in April by the court and involve approximately 200 people, 60 of whom are children. The plaintiffs are suing the South Korean government due to an alleged failure to adequately protect people against the harms of climate change, claiming the state is violating the right to life in Article 34 and the right to a healthy environment in Article 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea.

One of the cases, named Woodpecker et al. v. South Korea was first filed in 2022. The lawsuit is partially based on the Enforcement Decree of the Carbon Neutrality Act, which required setting South Korea’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) at a 40 percent reduction from the levels measured in 2018, as stated in Article 3 paragraph 1 of the Act.

The other cases were 2020’s Do-Hyun Kim et al. v. South Korea, arguing against South Korea’s Framework Act on Low Carbon, Green Growth; Byung-In Kim et al. v. South Korea, a case claiming the Carbon Neutrality Act violates the Constitution; and Min-A Park v South Korea, a case filed in 2023 against the alleged failure of the South Korean government to respect fundamental rights.

Amnesty International Korea’s climate justice campaigner, Jiyoun Yoo stated “The climate crisis is already upon us, but the effects will be felt even more intensely by future generations. Cases like this are vital to safeguarding citizen’s rights.”

Jiyoun also stated that the government has a binding duty to protect the people’s rights from the effects of the climate crisis and to ensure that there is no setback from the goals made in 2015 through the ratification of the Paris Agreement. Article 2(1a) of the Paris Agreement states that the parties shall, through the agreement, aim to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, by holding the increase in global average temperature by two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing the goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This, according to the plaintiffs, is not respected by the South Korean government.

The court will have its second and final hearing on Tuesday, and the court is expected to rule on the matter within the year, according to Amnesty International.