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Amnesty International asserts South Korea’s climate change ruling could establish a human rights precedent to protect Article 34 and Article 35

South Korea Constitutional Court hearing on Tuesday,  could establish a “human rights precedent” for climate litigation through four landmark cases, says Amnesty International.

Landmark Climate Cases

South Korea’s Constitutional Court will convene on Tuesday to hear four pivotal climate change cases, initially presented in April. These cases involve around 200 plaintiffs, including 60 children, who argue that the South Korean government has failed to adequately protect its citizens from the detrimental effects of climate change.

Human Rights Violations: The plaintiffs claim that the government’s inaction violates Article 34, which guarantees the right to life, and Article 35, which ensures the right to a healthy environment, as outlined in the Constitution of the Republic of Korea.

Key Cases

Woodpecker et al. v. South Korea: Filed in 2022, this case is partially based on the Enforcement Decree of the Carbon Neutrality Act, which mandates South Korea’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to be a 40% reduction from 2018 levels, as specified in Article 3 paragraph 1 of the Act.

Do-Hyun Kim et al. v. South Korea: This 2020 case challenges the Framework Act on Low Carbon, Green Growth, arguing it is insufficient to combat climate change.

Byung-In Kim et al. v. South Korea: This lawsuit contends that the Carbon Neutrality Act itself is unconstitutional.

Min-A Park v. South Korea: Filed in 2023, this case asserts that the government has failed to uphold fundamental rights in its response to climate change.

Amnesty International’s Stand

Campaigner’s Statement: Jiyoun Yoo, Amnesty International Korea’s climate justice campaigner, emphasized, “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 citizens’ rights.”

Government’s Duty: Yoo stressed that the government is obligated to protect citizens’ rights from the climate crisis and to adhere to the Paris Agreement’s goals. Article 2(1a) of the Paris Agreement calls for a global response to climate change, aiming to limit the increase in global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Final Hearing and Expected Ruling

Upcoming Hearing: The Constitutional Court’s second and final hearing is scheduled for Tuesday. Amnesty International anticipates a ruling on these crucial cases within the year.

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