Climate Change

Historic ruling of European Court of Human Rights: Climate protection is human right

KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz European Court of Human Rights climate change

Photo: Miriam Künzli/Ex-Press/Greenpeace


April 11, 2024






April 11, 2024





The European Court of Human Rights has issued a historic ruling that citizens have a right under the European Convention on Human Rights to be protected by the government from the harmful outcome of climate change. The Strasbourg Court has referred to the right to respect for private and family life before in environmental cases, but not on climate issues until now.

Swiss Senior Women for Climate Protection (KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz), an association representing over 2,500 women aged 64 and over, took action against its government for violating the human rights of its members by failing to set sufficient climate targets, and achieved a historic victory at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Namely, it is the first time a transnational court specializing in human rights is directly upholding the human right to climate protection, the organization said. It was previously defeated in Swiss courts, while European NGOs said the ruling could set a precedent for climate legal cases based on human rights arguments.

The court found a violation of article 8 – right to private and family life

The Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court ruled in the case Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland that the government is violating the human rights of the older women by not taking necessary steps to combat global warming, the association said and added that the panel found a violation of article 8, the right to private and family life.

The court confirmed with its decision that the increasingly frequent and intense heat waves caused by climate change pose a real and serious threat to the health and the private and family life of senior women.

The ruling sets a precedent for all 46 states of the Council of Europe

In its judgment, the ECHR lays out specific requirements that Switzerland must meet to remedy the identified gap in climate protection, the association noted.

It also highlighted the far-reaching implications of the ruling.

It sets a precedent for all 46 members of the Council of Europe as any of them could be asked by their citizens to review and, if necessary, strengthen their climate policy on the basis of the principles developed by ECHR to safeguard human rights, KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz said.

ECHR confirms climate protection is a human right


“This judgement is not just a victory for the Senior Women for Climate Protection. Our victory is a victory for all generations. Especially for the Portuguese youth, whose generation will be beneficiaries of a long-term improved climate. The presence of the young people in the courtroom showed the judges the face of human rights for the future,” says Co-President of the Swiss Senior Women for Climate Protection Rosmarie WydlerWälti.

Of note, the court has rejected a similar climate case filed by six young Portuguese people.

According to the Swiss group’s other Co-President Anne Mahrer, after nine years of fighting the ECHR has now confirmed that climate protection is a human right.

“The court’s decision is binding for the Federal Council and parliament. Human rights are the basis of every democracy – we expect politicians of all colors to abide by the ruling,” said Georg Klingler, initiator and project coordinator at Greenpeace Switzerland.

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