Never before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had ruled on the responsibility of States to take action against climate change. On Tuesday 9 April, the ECHR handed down a ruling that condemned Switzerland for violating the European Convention on Human Rights following a complaint lodged by four women and the Swiss association Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz, concerned about the consequences of global warming on their living conditions and health. They accused the Swiss authorities of not taking sufficient measures to mitigate the effects of climate change, despite their obligations under the Convention. 

A landmark act 

The European Court of Human Right states that Article 8 namely, the right to respect for private and family life as provided for in the Convention enshrines the right to effective protection by the State authorities against the serious adverse effects of climate change on life, health, well-being and quality of life. Therefore, the ECHR found that there had been a violation of Article 8 since the Swiss Confederation had failed to comply with its duties under the Convention concerning climate change. 

Raising awareness of climate change

An historic decision, as no state has ever been condemned by an international court for its inadequate climate policy before. On that subject, Professor Alberto Alemanno, founder of The Good Lobby, commentedThe Klimaseniorinnen judgement sets a major precedent in citizen-driven enforcement of climate obligations. This is a moniker for governments backtracking on their commitments and an encouragement for citizens to hold their governments accountable for inaction”. We can only hope that this decision marks the beginning of a real awakening to the issue of climate change for those states that are not yet taking sufficient action. 


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