It was found that Switzerland violated rights by failing to take action on climate change

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The European Court of Human Rights rejected two other, similar cases on procedural grounds — a high-profile one brought by Portuguese young people and another by a French mayor that sought to force governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But the Swiss case, nonetheless, sets a legal precedent in the Council of Europe’s 46 member states against which future lawsuits will be judged.
“This is a turning point,” said Corina Heri, an expert in climate change litigation at the University of Zurich.
Judge Siofra O’Leary, the court’s president, stressed that it would be up to governments to decide how to approach climate change obligations — and experts noted that was a limit of the ruling.
As part of trying to meet climate goals, the European Union, which doesn’t include Switzerland, currently has a target to be climate-neutral by 2050.
Despite those efforts, the Earth shattered global annual heat records in 2023 and flirted with the world’s agreed-upon warming threshold, Copernicus, a European climate agency, said in January.
They underscore the importance of taking our national governments to court,” the 21-year-old Swede told the AP.
“The first ruling by an international human rights court on the inadequacy of states’ climate action leaves no doubt,” said Joie Chowdhury, senior attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law, “the climate crisis is a human rights crisis.” ___ Casert reported from Brussels.


Strasburg, France (AP) — In a historic decision that could have ramifications for nations all over the continent, Europe’s highest human rights court decided on Tuesday that nations need to do a better job of protecting their citizens from the effects of climate change. The court sided with a group of elderly Swiss women against their government.

A prominent case brought by young people from Portugal and another by a French mayor that aimed to compel governments to lower greenhouse gas emissions were both dismissed by the European Court of Human Rights due to procedural issues.

Nevertheless, the Swiss case establishes a legal standard that the 46 members of the Council of Europe will use to evaluate future legal actions.

According to Corina Heri, a climate change litigation specialist at the University of Zurich, “this is a turning point.”.

Heri claims that although activists have been successful in their domestic legal battles, this was the first time an international court made a ruling on climate change, and it was the first to affirm that nations have a duty to mitigate its effects.

According to her, it would allow for more legal challenges in the Council of Europe’s member states, which include all 27 of the EU’s member states as well as numerous others ranging from Britain to Turkey.

For those who lost on Tuesday, the Swiss ruling eased the blow.

19-year-old Sofia Oliveira, one of the Portuguese plaintiffs, stated, “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.”. “Their victory is a victory for everyone, including us!”.

The court, which has nothing to do with the EU, declared that Switzerland “had failed to comply with its duties” in order to fight climate change and meet emissions targets.

A violation of women’s rights, the court ruled, citing the European Convention on Human Rights’ guarantee that individuals will receive “effective protection by the state authorities from the serious adverse effects of climate change on their lives, health, well-being and quality of life.”. “.

The average age of the group, Senior Women for Climate Protection, is 74. They had claimed that they were disproportionately impacted because older women are more susceptible to the extreme heat waves that are occurring more frequently.

As stated by group member Anne Mahrer, “the court recognized our fundamental right to a healthy climate and to have our country do what it failed to do until now: that is to say taking ambitious measures to protect our health and protect the future of all.”.

Switzerland declared that it would review the choice and determine what action would be required. During the hearings last year, Alain Chablais, who represented the nation, told The Associated Press, “We have to, in good faith, implement and execute the judgment.”.

The president of the court, Judge Siofra O’Leary, emphasized that governments would have to determine how to handle their climate change obligations; however, experts pointed out that this was a limitation of the ruling.

Natural resources and environmental law expert Richard Lazarus, a professor at Harvard Law School, said, “The European Court of Human Rights stopped short of ordering the Swiss government to take any specific action, underscoring that relief from the Swiss government ‘necessarily depends on democratic decision-making’ to enact the laws necessary to impose such a remedy.”.

In order to ensure that global warming is kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius (20.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, as per the objectives of the Paris climate agreement, activists have argued that many governments have failed to recognize the seriousness of the situation and are increasingly turning to the legal system to compel them to act.

It was the first trial of its kind in the United States when a judge in Montana decided last year that state agencies were infringing on the constitutional right to a clean environment by permitting fossil fuel development. S. that supplemented a handful of other comparable court rulings made globally.

The European Union, which does not include Switzerland, presently aims to be climate-neutral by 2050 as part of its efforts to meet climate goals. Copernicus, a European climate agency, reported in January that despite those efforts, the Earth broke all annual heat records globally in 2023 and nearly reached the global warming threshold.

Greta Thunberg, a well-known climate activist, was present in court when the ruling was made. “A call to action is contained in these rulings. The 21-year-old Swede told the AP, “They emphasize how important it is to sue our national governments.

Joie Chowdhury, senior attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law, stated, “There is no doubt that the climate crisis is a human rights crisis, given the first ruling by an international human rights court on the inadequacy of states’ climate action.”

. “.

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