Human Rights Court to Examine a Complaint on Climate Change

Human Rights Court to Examine a Complaint on Climate Change
Photo by Ulla Smidt-Berner on Flickr


Manon Picard

International Justice and Human Rights Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence.

The Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has relinquished its jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber of the Court in the case of Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and others v. Switzerland (application no. 53600/20). The Grand Chamber of the ECtHR, based in Strasbourg, France, will examine the case based on the rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

The complaint was brought by a Swiss association for the prevention of climate change and its members, mainly constituted of women over the age of 70. The applicants complained about the consequences of climate change; in particular, the impact global warming has on their health and living conditions. The complaint is brought against Switzerland on the basis that the State failed to take the necessary measures in the area of climate protection nationally and had also failed to do so in regard to the 2015 Paris Agreement and the agreed 2030 goals. 

The applicants brought their claim under Article 2 ECHR, the right to life, by arguing that Switzerland had “failed to fulfil its positive obligations to protect life effectively” and under Article 8 ECHR, the right to private and family life, due to the States’ failure to respect their right to a home. The applicants have argued that the positive obligations imposed on Switzerland to take action in preventing climate change should be considered in “light of the principles of precaution and intergenerational fairness … in international environmental law”. Specifically, the association and its members sustain that Switzerland failed to introduce, and should have implemented, legislation which took measures to combat climate change. The applicants also complained under Article 6 ECHR, the right to a fair trial, regarding their lack of access to a court and under Article 13 ECHR, the right to an effective remedy, as no effective remedy is available for the purpose of their complaint. 

As the case was given priority by the ECtHR due to the time-sensitive matter of climate change and the relinquishment to the Grand Chamber of the Court, the ECtHR’s reasoning and decision will be much awaited as very few cases have been decided on climate change by the international human rights court. 

Sources and further reading:

European Court of Human Rights. (2022, April 29). Grand Chamber to Examine Case Concerning Complaint by Association that Climate Change is Having an Impact on their Living Conditions and Health. Press Release – European Court of Human Rights. Retrieved on May 3, 2022, from