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International court rules Switzerland violated human rights in landmark climate case

By Laura Paddison, CNN

Tue April 9, 2024

An international court in France on Tuesday ruled Switzerland’s failure to adequately tackle the climate crisis was in violation of human rights, in a landmark climate judgment that could have a ripple effect across the globe.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France delivered its ruling in a case brought by more than 2,000 Swiss women, the majority of whom are in their 70s, against Switzerland’s government. They argued that climate change-fueled heat waves undermined their health and quality of life, and put them at risk of dying.

The court ruled that the Swiss government had violated some of the women’s human rights due to “critical gaps” in its national legislation to reduce planet-heating emissions, as well as a failure to meet past climate targets.

This amounted to a breach of the women’s rights to effective protection from the “the serious adverse effects of climate change on lives, health, well-being and quality of life,” the court said in a statement.

It marks the first time the court has ruled on climate litigation. There is no right of appeal and the judgment is legally binding.

Experts say the court’s ruling could bolster other human rights-based climate cases pending before international courts and could open the flood gates for numerous similar lawsuits to be launched in the future.

“Today’s rulings against Switzerland sets a historic precedent that applies to all European countries,” Gerry Liston, a lawyer at Global Legal Action Network, which supported the Portugal case, said in a statement. “It means that all European countries must urgently revise their targets so that they are science-based and aligned to 1.5 degrees. This is a massive win for all generations.”

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