Europe’s top human rights court ruled on Tuesday that the Swiss government had violated the human rights of its citizens by failing to do enough to combat climate change, in a decision that will set a precedent for future climate lawsuits.

The European Court of Human Rights’s ruling, in favour of the more than 2,000 Swiss women who brought the case, is expected to resonate in court decisions across Europe and beyond, and to embolden more communities to bring climate cases against governments.

The case Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland concerned a complaint by four women and a Swiss association, Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz, whose members are concerned about the consequences of global warming on their living conditions and health. They consider that the Swiss authorities are not taking sufficient action to mitigate the effects of climate change. The Court found that the Convention encompasses a right to effective protection by the State authorities from the serious adverse effects of climate change on lives, health, well-being and quality of life. However, it held that the four individual applicants did not fulfil the victim-status criteria under Article 34 of the Convention and declared their complaints inadmissible. The applicant association, in contrast, had the right to bring a complaint. The Court held that there had been a violation of the right to respect for private and family life of the Convention and that there had been a violation of the right to access to the court. The Court found that the Swiss Confederation had failed to comply with its duties (“positive obligations”) under the Convention concerning climate change. 

You can access all the Court documents here.