Fijian family suing Europe in landmark climate change lawsuit

European court case appeal being considered ... the global climate crisis is affecting the livelihoods of families in Fiji. Image: RNZ

By RNZ Pacific

A Fijian family may yet have their day in a European court in what is being seen as a landmark case in the fight against climate change.

They are among families from around the world who are suing the European Union over its climate targets.

They are appealing after the court dismissed the so-called People’s Climate Case last month.

LISTEN: Fijian family takes on Europe in climate fight

Petero Qaloibau, his three children and 80-year-old mother decided to become part of the action in order to shine a light on how the climate crisis has affected their livelihood.

They were invited to take part alongside a cattle-herder family in Kenya, a lavender farmer in France and forest owners in Portugal.

They are backed by a range of charities and scientists including the German charity Protect the Planet.

The group says the EU’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 is inadequate and breaches their fundamental rights.

Retired German law professor Gerd Winter is representing them all for free.

The Qaloibaus live in a small village on the coast of Vanua Levu.

They rely on farming, fishing and tourism for a living.

Petero Qaloibau says his earnings from copra and kava and the nature tours have become more important since his small shop was swept away during a cyclone nearly a decade ago.

Increasingly extreme weather and hotter sea temperatures have also been affecting their crops.

The European court last month dismissed the climate case on procedural grounds.

It reasoned that every individual is likely to be affected one way or another by climate change and the plaintiffs had not shown they, uniquely, were affected by EU law.

Professor Winter says a narrow interpretation of the law cannot hold in times of climate change where everybody is at risk.

An appeal is being planned and the lawyer says if that is successful, the case will then be heard on its merits and the families could be invited to attend.

He says success would be very important for future generations.

Meanwhile, Petero Qalibau says the community supports the action his family is taking, especially as they may have to relocate inland.

The plaintiffs have until mid July to submit their appeal.

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