Swiss parliament building

Switzerland: Parliament must respect landmark climate case

Ahead of the Swiss parliament’s vote on 5 June, concerning a motion not to further comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) landmark ruling in the Senior Women for Climate case, Mandi Mudarikwa, Amnesty International’s Head of Strategic Litigation, said:

“The ruling set a much-needed landmark precedent both in terms of recognizing the harm caused by climate change to the applicants, and the failure of the Swiss government to curb greenhouse gas emissions and adequately protect them. Not complying with the ruling would send a disastrous signal to European states- that they can pick and choose which rulings are convenient to comply with.

“There is no ‘à la carte’ when it comes to the binding judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. The Swiss Council of States must reject this dangerous motion and implement the judgment by intensifying their efforts to combat climate change.”

Background

The Legal Affairs Committee of the National Council and the Council of States in Switzerland tabled a motion not to follow up on the judgment of the ECtHR against Switzerland in the case brought by the Senior Women for Climate.

In Klimaseniorinnen Schweiz and Others v Switzerlanda group representing more than 2,500 older Swiss women argued that their government’s failure to adequately mitigate global warming violated their human rights to health and life and put them at risk of dying during heatwaves.

The Court found a violation of the right to private and family life which includes a right to effective protection by the State authorities from the serious adverse effects of climate change on lives, health, well-being and quality of life. According to the ruling, Switzerland failed to comply with its obligations in relation to reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions and did not effectively enact legislation or other measures that would protect the claimants from harm.

The right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment was universally recognized by the UN General Assembly in 2022. Amnesty International is part of a coalition calling for the adoption of an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights on the Right to a Healthy Environment, which would help reinforce and clarify the ECtHR’s jurisprudence on environmental protection, including climate change.