In 2016, a group of senior women, filed suit against the Federal Council, the Federal Department of the Environment Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC), The Federal Office for the Environment, and the Federal Office for Energy, , alleging that these bodies of the Swiss Government had failed to uphold obligations under the Swiss Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) by not steering Switzerland onto an emissions reduction trajectory consistent with the goal of keeping global temperatures well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. Specifically, petitioners alleged the government had violated articles 10 (right to life), 73 (sustainability principle), and 74 (environmental protection) of the Swiss Constitution and by articles 2 and 8 ECHR. The petitioners alleged that their demographic group is especially vulnerable to the heat waves expected to result from climate change. They called upon the Swiss parliament and the relevant federal agencies to develop a regulatory approach to several sectors that would achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions of at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2050. The petition criticized both the targets under discussion at the time in parliament (20% by 2020, and 30% by 2030) and the measures by which the Government would pursue those targets.
The petition was dismissed by DETEC on 25 April 2017. DETEC found that petitioners lacked standing because their rights were not affected as required by Article 25a (1) APA (Administrative Procedure Act, Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz,VwVG). DETEC determined that petitioners sought regulation of global CO2 emissions through general regulations rather than seeking a remedy for an infringement of their specific legal rights. DETEC further found that petitioners did not have victim status under the ECHR because they sought an injunction to serve the wider public interest of adoption of legislative reform to reduce CO2 emissions. Petitioners appealed the dismissal on May 26, 2017.
On November 27, 2018, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court rejected the appeal holding that Swiss women over 75 years of age are not exclusively affected by climate change impacts (thus echoing DETEC’s determination that the injury and remedy were not specialized to claimants). In January 2019, the claimants lodged an appeal against the judgment with Swiss Supreme Court. On May 20, 2020, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal. The Court held that the plaintiffs' asserted rights had not been affected with sufficient intensity, and that the remedy they seek must be achieved through political rather than legal means.
On November 26, 2020, having exhausted all available legal remedies in Switzerland, the claimants filed an application to the European Court of Human Rights. Updates to the case at the European Court can be found here.
|10/25/2016||Petition||Download||Full petition (German)|
|04/26/2017||Order||Download||Unofficial Translation of Relevant Excerpt|
|12/07/2018||Press Release||Download||In English|
|11/27/2018||Decision||Download||Unofficial Translation of Decision|
|01/21/2019||Appeal||Download||Appeal in German|
|01/21/2019||Appeal||Download||Unofficial Translation of Appeal|
|05/20/2020||Judgment||Download||Supreme Court opinion in German|
|05/05/2020||Judgment||Download||Unofficial English translation of Supreme Court judgment|