In 2016, the Senior Women for Climate Protection Switzerland (German: ‘Verein KlimaSeniorinnen’), a Swiss organisation, brought proceedings concerning the alleged omissions of the Swiss federal government to adopt an adequate climate protection policy. They submitted that current domestic climate targets and measures are not sufficient to limit global warming to a safe level. This failure to prevent climate-related disasters, they argue, represents a failure to protect the enjoyment of the rights under Articles 2 and 8 ECHR (the rights to life and respect for private and family life, respectively) of the organization’s members. The applicants also invoke two procedural rights under the Convention, namely the rights in Articles 6 and 13 ECHR (right to a fair trial and right to an effective remedy, respectively).
These claims were rejected by the domestic instances at three levels of jurisdiction. The Swiss Federal Supreme Court, in its ruling, considered that the case represented an actio popularis, concerned questions better suited to the political arena, and did not raise an arguable claim of a rights violation.
This case was only the second climate change-related case to come to Strasbourg. Like the Duarte Agostinho case, this application raises novel questions before the Court, including the issue of victim status in climate cases, the standing of (environmental) NGOs to bring cases to the Court, and the extent of the State margin of appreciation in regard to environmental protection measures related to climate change, and the extent of the positive obligation to protect individuals from the risks to their life and health posed by climate change.
There have been an unusually large (for the ECtHR) number of third party interventions in this case: 23 in total. The KlimaSeniorinnen association has provided copies of all of the third-party interventions; these are available here. Some of the third-party interveners will also appear during the oral hearing before the Grand Chamber.
Implementation measures taken:
Date of decision:
Type of Forum:
Status of case:
This case was communicated to the respondent State, Switzerland, on 17 March 2021. On 26 April 2022, a Chamber of the Court relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber, held a public hearing in this case on 29 March 2023. A webcast of the hearing is available here.
Grand Chamber hearing:
This was the first climate case heard by the European Court of Human Rights, followed immediately by the Carême v. France case. The Court has adjourned its examination of six other climate cases until the Grand Chamber has ruled in the three climate change cases before it, meaning that leading judgments clarifying the Convention obligations around cliamte change can be expected in these cases.
During the hearing, submissions were heard from the applicants, the respondent State, and two of the 23 total third-party interveners (the Government of Ireland & the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI). A live summary of the hearing is available here.
Suggested case citation:
ECtHR,Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland, no. 53600/20, Communicated Case, 17 March 2021, relinquishment to the Grand Chamber on 26 April 2022.
- The Court’s HUDOC database: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-209313
- More information on the case in English: https://klimaseniorinnen.ch/english/.
- All documents on the case: https://klimaseniorinnen.ch/dokumente/, including the application to the Court.
Webcast of the hearing:
To watch a webcast recording of the public hearing in this case, which was held before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on 29 March 2023, click here (available in French and English).
5 October 2023