Several thousand elderly female Swiss pensioners have brought a case to the European Court of Human Rights, the first hearing of which is Wednesday, alleging that the Swiss government’s failure to combat global warming is a violation of their human rights, Reuters reported.
The women allege that their government has made a “woefully inadequate” effort to combat climate change, and that rising temperatures put them at a heightened risk of death due to heatwaves, Reuters reported. The Swiss government has argued that the case was inadmissible and that any efforts by the court to impose penalties or prescriptive measures would be a “quasi-legislative” overreach.
The case is the first climate-related lawsuit to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights, CNN reported. Across Europe, roughly 300 climate-related courses have been filed in national and regional courts, and the Court’s decision in this case will likely have significant ramifications on future and ongoing lawsuits.
“What the court decides on these questions will be defining for its other climate cases, and will send strong signals to courts all across the Council of Europe, and around the world,” Corina Heri, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Zurich, told CNN. “Ten years ago, this kind of case was unimaginable.”
Eight European governments have filed interventions on behalf of Switzerland, with Ireland in particular arguing that the case was mired by “insuperable difficulties” and that the pensioners were asking courts to bypass democracy, Reuters reported.
“We were taken for old women who did not have a clear idea of the issues … and I think that could now turn against them,” Stefanie Brander, a member of the Senior Women for Climate Protection, told Reuters Wednesday.
Two additional cases are set to be heard by the human rights court, with the first, brought by European Parliament and French Green party member Damien Carême, also set to be heard Wednesday, Reuters reported. The third case has been brought by six young Portuguese citizens, alleging that all 27 members of the European Union, in addition to Britain, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine, have threatened their right to life by failing to tackle climate change.
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