Court Orders Government to Up Its Climate Action to Protect Elderly


Europe’s highest human rights court has delivered a groundbreaking ruling, declaring that the Swiss government has failed to adequately protect its elderly population from the intensifying effects of climate change. Over 2,000 Swiss women brought the case, arguing that the government’s climate policies were insufficient to mitigate the risks posed by heat waves.

Landmark Ruling

In an unambiguous verdict, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the Swiss government had violated the right to private and family life, as well as failed to uphold its obligations under the climate change convention. This landmark decision could compel Switzerland to overhaul its climate policies, aligning them with the Paris Agreement.

Victory for Climate Advocacy

Environmentalists hailed the ruling as a momentous victory for climate justice. “This is not merely a win for these extraordinary claimants but a resounding triumph for all who seek recourse in the law to hold governments accountable for climate inaction,” said Vesselina Newman of ClientEarth. “This verdict reverberates worldwide: governments must take tangible action to reduce emissions and safeguard their citizens’ human rights.”

A Ripple Effect

Newman emphasized the court’s decision as a European first for climate litigation. It sets a precedent for courts across the continent and obliges signatory states to ensure their climate action adequately protects human rights.

International Inspiration

The ruling has resonated beyond Europe’s borders, potentially influencing similar climate cases underway in Brazil, Peru, Australia, and South Korea. “We anticipate poring over this historic judgment to gauge its full legal implications,” added Newman.

Swiss Government’s Response

The Swiss Justice Ministry has yet to respond to requests for comment, while President Viola Amherd expressed reservations, stating that she would first need to review the ruling. However, Amherd acknowledged that climate policy remains a top priority for Switzerland.

Other Cases Dismissed

The ECHR simultaneously declared two other climate cases inadmissible: one involving six Portuguese youths petitioning against several European governments and another filed by a former French mayor.

Quotes from Legal Authorities

Joie Chowdhury of the Center for International Environmental Law emphasized the significance of the ruling: “This judgment declares unequivocally that the climate crisis is a human rights crisis. States have a legal duty to act swiftly and effectively in alignment with scientific evidence to avert further devastation to individuals and the environment.”

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