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Climate: the ECHR makes history by condemning Switzerland

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) delivered a historic judgment on Tuesday, condemning for the first time a State for its lack of action in the face of climate change, in In this case Switzerland, a decision which will apply in the 46 member states of the Council of Europe.

“Today's judgment is a historic judgment and we are really very happy to have taken this to the European Court of Human Rights”, launched Anne Mahrer, one of the Swiss environmental activists who condemned Berne. “Now we will be extremely attentive to ensuring that Switzerland implements the decision.”

“This is only the beginning,” warned Greta Thunberg, present in Strasbourg. “All over the world, more and more people are taking their governments to court to hold them accountable for their actions. Under no circumstances must we back down, we must fight even harder because this is only the beginning” , launched the young Swedish climate activist.

While the month of March broke a new world heat record, the Court's decision was eagerly awaited: the ECHR has never before ruled on the responsibility of States in matters of climate change.

Seized of three separate cases on this theme, the president of the ECHR, the Irish Siofra O'Leary, made three different conclusions.

If Switzerland was condemned, two other requests were rejected: that of a former environmentalist mayor of a coastal town in the North of France and that of young Portuguese attacking 32 States, a highly publicized approach.

– “Legal obligation” –

The complaint of the association of “Seniors for climate protection” (2,500 elderly Swiss women 73 years on average) was deemed admissible and led to the country's condemnation, a first.

Climate: the ECHR makes history by condemning Switzerland

Members of the Swiss Association of Elders for the Climate and young Portuguese plaintiffs before the ECHR before highly anticipated decisions on climate, April 9, 2024 in Strasbourg © AFP – Frederick FLORIN

The activists denounced “failures of the Swiss authorities to mitigate the effects of climate change”, which have negative consequences on their living conditions and their health.

< p>Switzerland now has “the legal obligation to implement this judgment”, Berne lawyer Alain Chablais told AFP, even if “it will take some time to determine what measures will be taken” by the Swiss government.

The leading Swiss party, the SVP, a radical right-wing party, for its part judged the ruling “unacceptable” and demanded that Switzerland leave the Council of Europe.

The ECHR, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, said there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 6 (access to a court).

The Court thus affirms that Article 8 establishes the right to effective protection, by the authorities of a State, against the effects serious harmful effects of climate change on life, health, well-being and quality of life.

– “A victory for all” –

Climate: the ECHR makes history by condemning Switzerland

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (2nd l) came to support young Portuguese people who complain about state inaction on global warming, April 9, 2024 in Strasbourg © AFP – Frederick FLORIN

Damien Carême's request was rejected. This former mayor of Grande-Synthe (North), attacked the “deficiencies” of the French state, believing in particular that they pose a risk of submersion to the city, on the coast of the North Sea. But the Court did not recognize his victim status, in particular because the French MEP (ex-EELV) no longer lives in France.

Finally, the Court considered inadmissible the case brought by six Portuguese aged 12 to 24, because they had not exhausted all legal remedies in their countries.

Mobilized after the terrible fires that ravaged their country in 2017, they attacked not only Portugal, but also all EU states, as well as Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Russia, i.e. 32 countries in total .

Even if their request was rejected, the Portuguese considered that this failure was largely compensated by the decision condemning Switzerland.

For Sofia Oliveira, 19, “the most important thing is that the Court considered, in the case of the Swiss, that States must further reduce their emissions in order to defend human rights. Their victory is therefore also a victory for us and a victory for everyone!”

At the end of the Paris Agreement in 2015, States committed to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees since pre-industrial times (1850-1900), and 1.5 degrees if possible.

Or , with a new temperature record in March, the last 12 months have been the hottest ever recorded in the world, 1.58 degrees warmer than in the planet's climate in the 19th century, the European observatory announced on Tuesday Copernicus.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116