Swiss lawmakers reject climate ruling in favour of female climate elders

June 13, 2024

Co-president of the KlimaSeniorinnen says declaration is betrayal of older women

Swiss politicians have rejected a landmark climate ruling from the European court of human rights, raising fears that other polluting countries may follow suit.

A panel of Strasbourg judges ruled in April that Switzerland had violated the human rights of older women through weak climate policies that leave them more vulnerable to heatwaves. Activists hailed the judgment as a breakthrough because it leaves all members of the Council of Europe exposed to legal challenges for sluggish efforts to clean up carbon-intensive economies.

But the Swiss parliament’s lower house voted on Wednesday to disregard the ruling – with 111 votes in favour and 72 against – arguing that the judges had overstepped their bounds and that Switzerland had done enough. The declaration, which has been adopted by the upper house but does not bind the federal government, accused the court of “inadmissible and disproportionate judicial activism”.

“This is terrible from a rule-of-law perspective,” said Corina Heri, a law researcher at the University of Zürich, adding that “the whole system would fall apart” if lots of states started to pick and choose which rulings they complied with. “The term ‘slippery slope’ is overused, obviously, but it is a dangerous precedent to create.”

The KlimaSeniorinnen – or Swiss female climate elders – are a group of 2,400 women over the age of 65 who took the Swiss government to court for failing to do its fair share to stop the planet heating 1.5C (2.7F). After years of setbacks in regional and national courts, they escalated the case to Europe’s top human rights court and scored a partial victory.

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