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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on April 9, 2024, in the case Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland (application no. 53600/20) that the Swiss government's failure to take adequate measures to combat global warming violated the guaranteed rights of its citizens, particularly the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

The application before the ECHR was initiated by a Swiss association, whose members are all older women concerned about the consequences of global warming on their living conditions and health. They consider that the Swiss authorities are not taking sufficient action, despite their duties under the Convention, to mitigate the effects of climate change. They argued that their age and gender make them particularly vulnerable and demanded that Switzerland design its climate policy to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The ECHR found that Article 8 of the Convention includes the right to effective protection by State authorities against the serious adverse effects of climate change on people's lives, health, well-being and quality of life. The Court also found that the Swiss Confederation had failed to comply with its duties ("positive obligations") under the Climate Change Convention, as it noted there were critical gaps in the process of establishing the relevant domestic regulatory framework, including the failure of the Swiss authorities to quantify greenhouse gas emission limitations.

Although the Court acknowledged that national authorities have a wide discretion in relation to the implementation of legislation, the Court held that the Swiss authorities had not acted in a timely and appropriate manner to design, develop and implement the relevant legislation in this case.  However, it is important to note that the Court did not impose specific measures on Switzerland, leaving the implementation of the judgment to the Swiss authorities. Therefore, Switzerland will be under an obligation to describe to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe what concrete measures the government will take to comply with the Court's judgment.

This decision sets a crucial legally binding precedent for the 46 countries that have signed the European Convention on Human Rights, especially considering that the ECHR has never before ruled on the responsibilities of states with regard to their actions against climate change. This court ruling will undoubtedly give a boost to climate disputes in the coming years, as the court's interpretation is part of the ECHR, and we should also see a diversification in the political actions of governments on climate change.


By Maria Constanti, Angela Charalambous, Angeliki Papaefstathiou  

For more information please visit our website microsite on Environmental Compliance or send your queries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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