European Court of Human Rights: First ever climate case victory

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European Court of Human Rights: First ever climate case victory

A group of Swiss women have won the first ever climate case in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The group (whose average age is 74) argued that older women’s rights are especially infringed on because they are the most affected by the extreme heat that will become more frequent due to global warming.

The Court ruled that the Swiss government had violated the human right to private and family life, by failing to put in place sufficient domestic policies to tackle climate change. This included “a failure to quantify, through a carbon budget or otherwise, national greenhouse gas emissions limitations”. The Court also found that the Swiss government had failed to meet its past greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, by not putting in place measures to ensure the goals were achieved.

The ECHR’s decision on the case, brought by more than 2,000 women, could have a ripple effect across Europe and beyond, setting a precedent for how some courts deal with the rising tide of climate litigation argued on the basis of human rights infringements.

Global civic movement Avaaz said the court’s ruling has opened a new chapter in climate litigation “The Swiss ruling sets a crucial legally binding precedent serving as a blueprint for how to successfully sue your own government over climate failures” said the legal campaigns Director of Avaaz.

The ruling has the potential to influence the law in 46 European countries including the UK.

Climate litigation is becoming commonplace in recent times. A 2023 report by the UN environment programme (UNEP) indicated that both individuals and organisations are increasingly turning to the courts to combat the climate crisis.

This type of litigation is likely to gain traction in the next few years if governments continue to fail on their pledges to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rises.

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JMW are seeing an increasing amount of litigation where environmental issues are the central focus, particularly in the context of transport and property; do get in touch if you would like to discuss any issues you or your business are facing. You can contact us by calling 0345 872 6666 or by completing our online enquiry form.

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