Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland

1 April 2023.


As the impacts of climate change become increasingly severe and tangible, people around the world are looking for ways to hold their governments accountable for inaction on this pressing issue. In Europe, senior citizens in Switzerland have taken the bold step of filing a case against their government in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The case, known as Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland, was filed by the Club of Climate Seniors and Marie-Eve Volkoff, who experienced 11 weeks of indoor confinement during the heatwaves of 2022. The association and Volkoff claim that the Swiss government’s inadequate response to climate change has violated their right to health, and they are seeking compensation and changes to Swiss climate policy.

Blaming Swiss Authorities for Climate Change Failings

The Club of Climate Seniors has accused the Swiss authorities of various climate change failings, including insufficient measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a lack of preparedness for extreme weather events, and insufficient support for vulnerable populations. During the heatwaves in 2022, many elderly people, including the women involved in the case, experienced shortness of breath, nausea, and even loss of consciousness.

The European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights, which is based in France’s Strasbourg, is an international court. It hears cases related to human rights violations under the European Convention on Human Rights, which is ratified by the court’s 46 member states.

Similar Climate Change Cases

The Swiss case is not the only legal action being taken against a government for climate change inaction. In France, former mayor Damien Careme has filed a case against the French government in the ECHR, alleging that its insufficient climate policy violates the rights of future generations. Corinne Lepage, the former French ecology minister, is one of Careme’s lawyers.

Greenpeace, an international environmental organization, issued a statement in support of the Swiss climate change case, calling it “a wake-up call for governments around the world to take urgent action to address the climate crisis.”

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