Switzerland’s climate failures breached human rights, top court rules

By Federica Di Sario | 04/09/2024 12:46 PM EDT

The judgment doesn’t include any sanctions on the Swiss government but sets important precedent.

BRUSSELS — Switzerland violated its citizens’ human rights by failing to protect them from climate change’s catastrophic effects, Europe’s top human rights court said Tuesday in a ruling expected to reverberate across future lawsuits.

The judgment — dubbed KlimaSeniorinnen after the senior women taking the country to court — came after a trial that saw elderly Swiss women allege Bern wasn’t cutting planet-warming emissions fast enough to avoid climate disasters such as heat waves that disproportionately harm older people.

The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights is the judicial arm of the Council of Europe, an international human rights organization separate from the European Union. Its rulings are binding on the Council’s 46 members, which includes all 27 EU countries.


Tuesday’s ruling doesn’t include any sanctions on the Swiss government, but it does create a precedent others can use to seek penalties in national courts.