Swiss court case linking human rights to climate change

  • Written by Imogen Foulkes and Adam Durbin
  • BBC News

photo caption,

Alpine glaciers are particularly at risk from warming due to climate change

More than 2,000 women are suing the Swiss government, claiming that its climate change policy violates their right to life and health.

This is the first time that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has heard a case on the impact of climate change on human rights.

This comes after six years of unsuccessful battles in the Swiss courts.

Temperatures in Switzerland are rising faster than the global average, and there are more frequent heatwaves.

Swiss women – whose average age is 73 – say climate change is putting their human rights, their health and even their lives at risk. Their testimony to the court includes their medical records.

They want the European Court of Human Rights to order Switzerland to work harder to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Swiss government does not deny that climate change can affect health – but says it cannot be linked specifically to the health of older women.

If the women succeed, the case could set a precedent for each of the 46 member states of the European Court.

Left unchecked, humans and nature will face catastrophic warming, with worsening droughts, rising sea levels, and mass extinction of species.

Already extreme weather events are becoming more severe around the world, threatening lives and livelihoods.

According to the United Nations climate body, IPCC, if the global temperature rise cannot be kept within 1.5°C, Europe will be vulnerable to floods caused by heavy rainfall.

Extreme temperatures can also increase the risk of wildfires – as was seen in Europe last summer. France and Germany recorded a nearly sevenfold increase in land burning between January and mid-July 2022, compared to the average.

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