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Human rights violated by climate inaction, European court rules

Another landmark environmental case suggests governments have an obligation to protect vulnerable people, but are failing.

More than 2,000 Swiss women, members of the KlimaSeniorinnen group, and most over the age of 70, decided to take their own country to the European Court of Human Rights because their age and gender meant they were becoming increasingly susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change. 

In particular, they  identified risks from heatwaves. At the time of writing, the country is undergoing its first bout of unseasonably high temperatures, with thermometers on the weekend of 5th April breaking records at 28.5C. 

Last summer also saw long spells of during which heat warnings were in place, and the claimants argued that incidents such as this are a direct affront to their human rights. On Tuesday, 9th April, a verdict was given that Swiss governance had ‘failed to comply with its duties under the Convention concerning climate change.’ It was also guilty of violating the right to respect for private and family life. 

‘We still can’t really believe it. We keep asking our lawyers, ‘is that right?’ Rosemarie Wydler-Walti, one of the Swiss women, told Reuters. ‘And they tell us it’s the most you could have had. The biggest victory possible.’

Campaigning to raise awareness and funds to begin legal action began nine years ago, when calls began for more protection for women’s health amid an increasingly extreme climate. Notably, although this case ended successfully, two others which are directly comparable – respectfully brought about by six Portuguese young people, and a French mayor – were dismissed. 



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