top of page

Landmark climate victory after legal action by 2,000 older women

Yesterday we saw the most significant climate change development in years -  the European Court of Human Rights ruled that climate inaction by a government had violated human rights.

Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland concerned a group of 2,000 Swiss women, mostly in their 70s, who argued that climate change impacts, such as heatwaves, had a negative effect on their living conditions and health, and even put them at a greater risk of death due to their age and gender.

They argued that Switzerland's climate policies were inadequate, and this had violated their human rights.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that:

'... there had been a violation of the right to respect for private and family life of the Convention and that there had been a violation of the right to access to the court.
The Court found that the Swiss Confederation had failed to comply with its duties (“positive obligations”) under the Convention concerning climate change. 

The judgment is legally binding and there is no right of appeal.

Why is this a historic moment?

  1. Decisions made in the European Court of Human Rights influence law across its 46 member states, including the United Kingdom.

  2. This is the first time an international court ruled on climate change - paving the way to future cases across its 46 member states and inspiring climate litigation worldwide.

  3. The verdict will likely lead to the Swiss government taking greater action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and although that on its own won't prevent dangerous climate change, it can be incredibly impactful if it encourages other governments to to take more urgent action

  4. There are many other climate cases that are currently pending, against governments and corporations - all of them might be influenced by this decision, so we might see a lot of change in the coming years.

Two other cases, from Portugal (by 6 young people) and France (from a former mayor), were declared inadmissible on 'procedural grounds', but these cases still have made a contribution to climate litigation as they provide valuable learning lessons for future cases.

You can watch the video of all 3 judgements being delivered here.

Private Goodness offers Boards of Directors a bespoke course about Climate Change Risks and Opportunities which covers climate litigation. More info here.

Our Climate Change courses for lawyers can be found here.



bottom of page