Climate change considered a human rights violation in Europe

In early April, the European Court for Human Rights ruled that Switzerland had failed to do enough to cut its national greenhouse gas emissions and that this was a violation of the human rights of a group of older Swiss women.


The older Swiss women brought the case to trial after arguing that their right to privacy and family life were breached because they, as older women, were particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of heatwaves, which are a direct result of climate change.


This case marks the first time this particular court ruled on a climate change matter and has opened discussion up on whether or not maintaining climate change constitutes as a human rights violation. The ruling is binding and has the power to influence the law in 46 countries across Europe, including the U.K. The case was heard by 17 judges and their final judgment included minimum standards that European countries should have due regard to such as setting carbon budgets and targets that it can adhere to. The judges have, however, left the Council of Europe’s committee of ministers to solve the problem. 


The ruling opens the doorway for other climate-related lawsuits that have been brought before courts. A Nordic company, Greenpeace, has sued the Norwegian government in an attempt to prevent the expansion of fossil fuel extraction in the Arctic. Another case is brought by an Austrian man who suffers from certain illnesses that he claims make him vulnerable to heatwaves and the effects of climate change.


The U.S. courts so far are dismissing all such cases but there is a possibility that the European Court’s ruling makes a difference.


Trenton Olling, senior aviation flight major, commented on the case,”Hopefully this pushes governments to be more progressive in their policies toward climate change.” 

 Photo Credits: Barron’

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