Environmental vulnerability, age and the promises of anti‐age discrimination law

Published date01 July 2019
Date01 July 2019
Environmental vulnerability, age and the promises of antiage
discrimination law
Refia Kaya
Email: refia.kadayifci@uclouvain.be
Funding information
Grantová Agentura České Republiky, Grant/
Award Number: 17 26629S
Discussions on equality between age groups and the practice of antiage discrimin-
ation law often tend to focus on the rights of the elderly on the labour market. This
article is motivated by the current climate change cases, which emphasize broader
age inequalities. It aims to highlight the unexplored potential of antiage discrimin-
ation law. Moreover, it explores the possible added value of this law when other
legal ways to defend environmental rights are considered. Antiage discrimination
law could thus offer a meaningful and effective ground to address agerelated envir-
onmental vulnerabilities.
Agerelated adverse effects of environmental degradation disadvan-
tage the elderly and children. On the one hand, the healthrelated
response of the elderly and progressively ageing population to envir-
onmental degradation causes great concern.
On the other hand,
children and young generations continue to face significant environ-
mental risks, including the effects of climate change. Hence, there is
increasing awareness globally on how to foster sustainable and
healthy environmentsfor young generations and agefriendly and
healthy environments
for elderly generations. For example, the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently held an expert
workshop in Geneva about the impacts of hazardous chemicals on
women and children. Leading global experts on chemicals and health
asserted that a specific policy focus is needed to protect children
from hazardous environmental pollution, but that this is mostly non
Similarly, at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference and subse-
quently in the Paris Agreement, States acknowledged that climate
change raises intergenerational equity issues.
There is also legal awareness of the agerelated disparate impacts
of climate change. Children and the elderly constitute prominent claim-
ant groups emphasizing age disparities in the context of climate
change litigation. For example, the Juliana v United States case was
brought by 21 young activists.
There is growing youth activism with
regard to environmental issues.
In Norway, a climate case against
the Norwegian government was brought by the Nature and Youth
Organization, and the Norwegian Grandparents Climate Campaign,
formed in 2006, is a coplaintiff.
Switzerland also witnessed a cli-
mate case which was brought by grandmothers.
In the 2015 Dutch
Urgenda climate case, the Court referred to the adverse effect of
temperature rise resulting from climate change by stating: the tem-
perature rise will lead to heatrelated deaths, particularly among the
elderly and children.
This was not an age discrimination case, but
as the particular disadvantaged situation of the elderly and children
in the natural environment is legally recognized, such cases may
open the door for antiage discrimination claims.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
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DOI: 10.1111/reel.12279
wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/reel RECIEL. 2019;28:162174.

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