Switzerland violated human rights: European court – Times of India


NEW DELHI: In a historic judgment on Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights declared that nations must enhance their efforts to shield their citizens from the adverse impacts of climate change. This ruling came as the court sided with a group of Swiss elders against their government, setting a precedent for future legal actions across the continent.
Swiss state found lacking in climate action
The court found Switzerland in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguards the “right to respect for private and family life.”
In her ruling, Court President Siofra O’Leary said the Swiss government had failed to comply with its own targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and had failed to set a national carbon budget.
“It is clear that future generations are likely to bear an increasingly severe burden of the consequences of present failures and omissions to combat climate change,” O’Leary said.
This case was brought forth by the Swiss association of Elders for Climate Protection, a group of 2,500 women with an average age of 73, who argued that Switzerland’s inadequate climate protection measures could “seriously harm” their health. The Swiss state has been ordered to compensate the association with 80,000 euros within three months.
Gerry Liston of the NGO Global Legal Action Network highlighted the potential of this ruling to be “a turning point in the global struggle for a liveable future.” The court’s decision could mark “the most significant legal development on climate change for Europe since the signing of the Paris 2015 Agreement,” which aims to limit global warming.
Dismissal of other cases
The court also reviewed two other similar cases but dismissed them on procedural grounds. One involved a petition from six Portuguese young people against 32 states for not adequately addressing climate change, and the other from a former French mayor concerning the risk of his town being submerged.
“The most important thing is that the court has said in the Swiss women’s case that governments must cut their emissions more to protect human rights,” said 19-year-od Sofia Oliveira, one of the Portuguese plaintiffs. “Their win is a win for us, too, and a win for everyone!”
Corina Heri, an expert in climate change litigation, noted that this is the first instance an international court has ruled on climate change, affirming that countries have an obligation to protect individuals from its effects. The ruling has opened the door to further legal challenges within the Council of Europe’s member states.
Switzerland has stated it will review the decision to determine necessary actions. Meanwhile, activists, including celebrity climate activist Greta Thunberg, have emphasized the ruling’s significance in holding governments accountable for their climate actions.
This groundbreaking decision underscores the escalating role of courts in addressing the climate crisis and ensuring nations uphold their commitments to protect their citizens and the environment.
(With inputs from agencies)


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