The first-ever lawsuits on the climate issue were heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Wednesday.
The claimants contend that the governments of France and Switzerland committed human rights violations by failing to take sufficient action to minimize greenhouse gas emissions that are principally responsible for global warming and are produced by burning fossil fuels. According to Bastien Duyck, human rights and climate campaign manager at the Center for International Environmental Law, the hearings represent a turning point in the legal battle for more aggressive climate action.
According to Duyck, they have the potential to establish a significant legal precedent that would support the idea that nations are required by their commitments under the United Nations Convention on Human Rights to take stronger action against climate change.
Senior Women Unite
The ECHR heard its first climate case on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, and it was brought by a group of elderly ladies who wanted to defend themselves against escalating heat waves. Senior Women for Climate Protection Switzerland (KlimaSeniorinnen) claims that older people, particularly women, are more likely to die during times of extreme heat and that Switzerland should take more action to prevent this. There are 2,038 members of KlimaSeniorinnen.
In a statement published by Greenpeace, which is backing the women’s complaint, Senior Women for Climate Protection Swiss Co-President Anne Mahrers said, “We have launched a lawsuit because Switzerland is doing far too little to limit the global crisis.” Our physical and emotional health are already being negatively impacted by rising temperatures. We, elderly women, are getting unwell from the significant increase in heat waves.
According to Cordelia B Esser, one of the women’s attorneys, the Swiss government is required by Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to protect older women’s right to life, health, and well-being because of the unique risk they confront.
According to a document given by the plaintiffs, the group initially presented their case before Swiss courts, who rejected it, in part because everyone in Switzerland is affected by climate change and women’s rights were not sufficiently threatened to warrant bringing a lawsuit. According to Climate Home News, the government’s attorneys asserted on Wednesday that Switzerland was making every effort possible to tackle climate change. Jessica Simor, another plaintiffs’ attorney, pointed out that Climate Action Tracker assessed Switzerland’s policy as inadequate.
According to the plaintiffs, if every nation adopted Switzerland’s policies, temperatures could rise by up to three degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100, which would be twice the 1.5 degrees of warming that scientists say is necessary to prevent ever-worsening climate impacts. The plaintiffs, in particular, demand that Switzerland seeks to reduce emissions overseas and reduce emissions domestically by more than 60% by 2030 as opposed to just 34%.
Mayor on A Mission
According to The Guardian, the second complaint on Wednesday was made by the former mayor of Grande-Synthe in northern France who is currently a member of the European Parliament. Damien Carme claims that France’s inadequate climate measures personally harm him since rising temperatures put his Calais property in danger of floods and potential submersion by 2030. According to Car Pio, this also infringes on his Articles 2 and 8 rights to life and to a private and family life. Greenpeace expressed this.
According to The Guardian, a French court heard his case in 2021 and agreed that the government needed to take all additional measures necessary to fulfill climate goals, but disagreed that Car mi was personally affected by inaction. According to Climate Home News, France’s legal team stated in Strasbourg on Wednesday that the nation has changed its approach to reducing emissions and that national courts were already keeping track of the government’s efforts.
The ECHR is not anticipated to rule on either matter before next year. The court will hear a third climate liability case in the fall from six young Portuguese persons, aged 11 to 23, who make a similar argument that the EU’s inaction on climate change threatens human life in general and the rights of young people in particular.
If the ECHR rules in favor of any of these claimants, it would spark a spate of further lawsuits with identical claims, which would reinforce EU emissions reduction efforts.