European top human rights court rules that human rights were violated by climate change inaction

Anne Mahrer and Rosmarie Wyder-Walti
Anne Mahrer and Rosmarie Wyder-Walti, of the Swiss elderly women group Senior Women for Climate Protection, after the verdict of the court in Strasbourg, France. (Image: Reuters)

Europe’s top human rights court has sided with a 2,000-strong group of elderly women who said Switzerland’s government had not done enough to combat climate change.

Senior Women for Climate Protection, whose average age is 74, say older women’s rights are especially infringed on because they are most affected by the extreme heat that will become more frequent due to global warming.

This is the first time the court has ruled on climate change.

Judgments from the European Court of Human Rights are not legally binding for all 46 of the European Council’s member states, but they set a legal precedent against which future lawsuits would be judged.

The European Union, which does not include Switzerland, currently has a target to be climate-neutral by 2050.

Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg was among the crowd outside the ECHR. Pic: Reuters
Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg was among the crowd outside the ECHR. (Image: Reuters)


The European Court of Human Rights sided with the more than 2,000 Swiss members, but threw out a high-profile case brought by six Portuguese youngsters aimed at forcing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In a mixed session of judgements, a French mayor seeking similar stronger government efforts to combat climate change was also defeated.

Lawyers for all three had hoped the Strasbourg court would find that national governments have a legal duty to make sure global warming is held to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, in line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

“I really hoped that we would win against all the countries, so obviously I’m disappointed that this didn’t happen,” said 19-year-od Sofia Oliveira, one of the Portuguese plaintiffs.

“But the most important thing is that the Court has said in the Swiss women’s case that governments must cut their emissions more to protect human rights. So, their win is a win for us, too, and a win for everyone!”

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, 21, who was coming off of multiple arrests during a demonstration in The Hague over the weekend, was among those who gathered outside the court ahead of the ruling, to cheer and wave flags.

Highlight the significance of the moment, Gerry Liston, a lawyer with Global Legal Action Network who has been supporting the Portuguese students, said “a victory for any of the three cases would be one of the most significant developments on climate change since the signing of the Paris Agreement”.

Source:  Sky News

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