Over 2,000 Swiss pensioners are bringing a climate lawsuit against the Swiss government, accusing it of not doing enough to combat climate change and violating human rights. The case will be heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Wednesday after a six-year legal battle in Switzerland. The Association of Women Climate Seniors and Greenpeace are supporting the plaintiffs, who argue that climate change is causing increasingly intense heat waves that disproportionately affect women and older people.
The pensioners argue that there have been four violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to life. They claim that their rights have been violated and that they are at particular risk from high temperatures due to their gender and age. They refer to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which predicts more heat waves in the future as a result of climate change.
Additionally, they cite several studies that state that women are particularly at risk of dying from heat waves, and older women are no longer able to regulate their body temperature as well. A study published in the journal Nature in 2021 also states that 30% of heat deaths in Switzerland in the coming years can be attributed to climate change.
The plaintiffs criticize Switzerland’s climate targets as being insufficient, as the country aims to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050, primarily by purchasing CO2 certificates. Therefore, the plaintiffs argue that Switzerland needs to adjust its goals.
The association has already failed twice with its request in Switzerland, as the federal government dismissed their complaint in 2016 and the Federal Supreme Court in Lausanne dismissed a similar lawsuit in 2020, citing insufficient rights to sue. However, if the ECtHR addresses the content of the complaint at the first hearing, this could become a precedent.
On Wednesday, the association and the federal government will be asked to represent their case before the court in Strasbourg. The court will then retire to deliberate and announce its decision at a later date. The case has already attracted international attention as it is the first climate lawsuit to come before the ECtHR.
The Association of Women Climate Seniors and Greenpeace hope that the case will highlight the urgent need for action to combat climate change and hold governments accountable for their lack of action.