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Swiss parliament rejects ECHR climate ruling

Swiss parliament rejects ECHR climate ruling

Parliament Rejects

The Swiss parliament has rejected a landmark climate ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), sparking outrage among activists and raising concerns about the country’s commitment to addressing climate change. The ruling had found that Switzerland violated the human rights of older women by failing to implement adequate policies to reduce carbon emissions and protect them from the health risks posed by heatwaves. The case was brought by the KlimaSeniorinnen, a group of 2,400 Swiss women over the age of 65 who argued that the government had not done enough to safeguard their well-being in the face of global warming.

The ECHR had ruled in their favor, acknowledging the heightened vulnerability of older women to extreme weather events. However, the Swiss parliament’s lower house voted 111 to 72 to disregard the ruling, accusing the judges of overstepping their authority and claiming that Switzerland had already taken sufficient action to combat climate change. The upper house had previously adopted a similar declaration, labeling the court’s decision as “inadmissible and disproportionate judicial activism.”

Experts and activists have strongly criticized the parliament’s stance.

Corina Heri, a law researcher at the University of Zürich, warned that the decision sets a dangerous precedent and could undermine the rule of law.

Swiss parliament rebuffs ECHR climate ruling

Rosmarie Wydler-Wälti, co-president of the KlimaSeniorinnen, condemned the declaration as a betrayal of older women and all those suffering from the consequences of global warming.

The parliamentary debate was marked by contentious remarks, with some politicians mocking the plaintiffs and dismissing their concerns. Jean-Luc Addor from the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party referred to the KlimaSeniorinnen as “a bunch of apparently healthy ‘boomeuses’ [female boomers], who are trying to deny our children the living conditions they have enjoyed all their lives.”

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Scientists have demonstrated that older women are disproportionately affected by heatwaves, with higher mortality rates due to factors such as cardiovascular vulnerabilities and increased activity levels compared to men. A study found that 60% of heatwave deaths in Switzerland during the summer of 2022 were attributable to climate change, with older women being hit hardest.

The rejection of the court ruling has wider implications for Switzerland’s international commitments, as the country is legally obliged to implement the ECHR’s judgments under the European Convention on Human Rights, which it ratified 50 years ago. Evelyne Schmid, a professor of international law at the University of Lausanne, emphasized that Switzerland’s stance complicates its obligations and sends a problematic message. The episode highlights the ongoing issue of sexism in climate change discourse and the need for inclusive, science-based policy-making.

Ignoring the needs of vulnerable populations, particularly older women, in the face of a warming planet is shortsighted and undermines the collective effort required to address the challenges of climate change effectively.

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