European Court of Human Rights decision on climate change welcomed

Posted on April, 09 2024

The decision of the European Court of Human Rights on climate change sets a precedent that goes far beyond the Swiss borders.

(GLAND, Switzerland) 9 April 2024 - Today, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of a group of older women from Switzerland - the Klima Seniorinnen - who had brought the case arguing that their human rights were violated because their government had not done enough to tackle climate change. The Court agreed, ruling in their favour. This is the first time the Court has ruled on climate change.


Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Climate and Energy Lead, said: “Climate litigation is a new arena for people to hold their governments to account for climate action - or the lack thereof. While the outcomes have been varied, the historic decision today sends a strong signal to courts all over the world that governments cannot continue to stall climate action.” 


As of December 2022, there have been more than 2,180 climate-related cases filed in 65 jurisdictions, up from 884 cases in 2017, according to the 2023 Global Climate Litigation Report.


We can no longer consider climate change as just a political issue. It is a moral, and human rights issue too, and so WWF welcomes the decision of the ECHR,” he said.


Patrick Hofstetter, WWF Switzerland expert on climate and energy said: The ECHR’s first judgement on the subject of lacking climate action needs to be a late wakeup call not only for Switzerland. It sets a precedent that goes far beyond the Swiss border. Numerous countries are not on track to meet international targets with their climate policy and according to today’s judgement many would be violating human rights.


An important decision is also expected this year from the International Court of Justice, which is considering what the obligations of States are with respect to climate change. Public hearings on this are expected to be held later this year.


WWF will make its own submission to the ICJ, responding to the questions posted in the request for an advisory opinion from the UN General Assembly, drawing on our expertise regarding climate change and linkages to nature and biodiversity. We intend to highlight existing states’ obligations to protect nature and biodiversity as key for climate change mitigation and adaptation. We will also outline how greenhouse gas emissions and other observable climate change effects already bring severe harm to nature and people, thereby violating existing international environmental law. And finally, we will also recall the role which nature can also play in helping to tackle climate change,” said Pulgar-Vidal.


We hope governments take note of these court actions and decisions as they prepare for both COP16 and COP29 this year, where crucial decisions must be taken to protect nature and to tackle climate change. Our leaders must not fail us.”




Notes for Editors: 


Find out more about WWF’s ICJ submission here.

KlimaSeniorinen (Swiss Elders for Climate Protection).

For further information, contact:
Robin Harvey 
Mandy Woods 
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
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