ECtHR: Swiss inaction on climate change violated human rights

ECtHR: Swiss inaction on climate change violated human rights

Switzerland is failing to meet its human rights obligations by not taking sufficient action to tackle climate change, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled in a landmark case.

The Strasbourg court today handed down judgments in three landmark cases, which represented the first climate litigation before the court. Judges rejected the applicants’ arguments in the other two cases, which were brought against France and 33 European countries respectively.

In today’s Grand Chamber judgment on the Swiss case, the ECtHR held by 16-1 that Switzerland had violated Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life or home) and Article 6 § 1 (access to court) by failing to reduce emissions.

The case was brought by an association called KlimaSeniorinnen (Climate Senior Women) on behalf of more than 2,000 members, who it said were at risk of health problems because of heat waves linked to climate change.

Four individuals were also named as applicants, one of whom died while the proceedings were before the court, but judges ruled that they did not have standing as victims to bring the case, whereas the association did.

Because of the complexity of the case and the margin of appreciation allowed in this area, the ECtHR declined to make specific orders for actions Switzerland must take in response to the judgment, leaving this to the Council of Europe’s committee of ministers to oversee.

The court also awarded €80,000 to the KlimaSeniorinnen for legal costs and expenses.

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