Skip to main content

Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced Grand Chamber rulings in three significant climate change cases, marking a historic moment in the intersection of human rights and climate changes.

Historic Ruling Against Switzerland
In the case of Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland, the Court sided with the applicants, a group of four women and a Swiss association, Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz. They raised concerns about the adverse effects of climate changes on their living conditions and health, alleging that Swiss authorities had failed to take adequate measures to mitigate these impacts.

The Court’s decision sets a groundbreaking precedent by recognizing, for the first time, that states have a positive obligation under Article 8 (concerning the right to private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights to protect their citizens from the severe consequences of climate change. The Court found Switzerland in violation of this duty and declared that the Swiss Confederation had failed to meet its “positive obligations” concerning climate change under the Convention.

Louise Holck, director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, commented, “The Court’s decision in the case against Switzerland establishes that states have a duty to protect their citizens from severe climate changes.”

Inadmissibility in French and Portuguese Cases
In the case of Carême v. France, the Court declared the application inadmissible. The applicant, a former inhabitant and mayor of Grande-Synthe, claimed that France had not taken sufficient steps to prevent global warming. However, the Court found that the applicant did not meet the victim-status criteria under Article 34 of the Convention.

Similarly, in Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Others, the Court declared the applications against Portugal and other respondent States inadmissible. The applicants alleged that the effects of climate change had severe impacts on their lives, well-being, and mental health. However, the Court found that the applicants had not exhausted domestic remedies in Portugal and that there were no grounds to extend extraterritorial jurisdiction as requested.

Recognition of Climate Change as a Human Rights Issue
“For the first time, the European Court of Human Rights concludes that states have a positive obligation to ensure climate action and concrete climate targets,” stated Holck.

The Court’s rulings underscore the growing recognition that severe consequences of climate change are protected by human rights, particularly the right to private and family life. While the Court did not find violations in all cases due to procedural reasons, the decisions highlight the importance of addressing climate change as a human rights issue at both national and international levels.

Today’s rulings by the ECHR represent a significant step forward in holding states accountable for their role in combating climate change. While the Court’s decisions vary in their outcomes, they collectively affirm that protecting citizens from the adverse effects of climate change is not just a moral imperative but a legal obligation under human rights law.

As the global community grapples with the escalating climate crisis, these landmark rulings serve as a reminder that climate action and human rights are intrinsically linked, and states must act decisively to fulfill their obligations to current and future generations.

(More information: European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) – Press Release; Danish Institute for Human Rights – Press Release; Featured image credits: Freepik)


Lifestyle app empowering people to reduce environmental impact launches EU-wide version

Brussels, Belgium - After the successful uptake of 200,000 tests across eight European countries, the PS Lifestyle Test - which helps people measure their environmental…
SourceSourceMay 30, 2024 Read More

EarthCARE satellite to probe how clouds affect climate

By Patrick T. FALLON with Juliette COLLEN in Paris | AFP Vandenberg Air Force Base, United States (UPDATED) - A rocket carrying a sophisticated satellite…
SourceSourceMay 29, 2024 Read More

US announces ‘guardrails’ for controversial carbon markets to succeed

By Issam Ahmed with Nick Perry in Paris | AFP Washington, United States (UPDATED) - President Joe Biden's administration announced new "guardrails" to help ensure…
SourceSourceMay 29, 2024 Read More