STRASBOURG, France (AP) – A group of Swiss pensioners took their government to a European top court on Wednesday for allegedly failing to take adequate action on climate change.
Lawyers and members of the Senior Women for Climate Protection group have appeared before the European Court of Human Rights for a rare public hearing that activists say could mark a legal milestone in efforts to force governments to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The group, which has around 2,000 members across Switzerland with an average age of 73, argues that the rights of older women are particularly violated because they are most affected by the extreme heat, which will become more frequent due to global warming, which the current Swiss climate policy affects contributes to.
“It has been proven that we older women are particularly sensitive (to climate change),” says plaintiff Rosmarie Wydler-Waelti, 73, from Basel. “We get sick a little faster from heat waves than older men or other groups.”
After exhausting domestic legal avenues, the group has taken their case to the tribunal in Strasbourg, France, hoping to win a verdict applicable to all signatory states to the European Convention on Human Rights.
“We are suing for our human right to life,” said Lore Zablonier, a 78-year-old woman from Zurich who was on trial. “With this case, we want to help spur politicians to take action.”
Swiss government lawyers want the court to dismiss the case.
“The plaintiffs are not sufficiently impaired in their right to life to uphold the lawsuit,” said Alain Chablais, who represented the Swiss government at the hearing.
“Switzerland is not alone (on global warming) and this problem cannot be solved by Switzerland alone,” he told The Associated Press.
Georg Klingler, a climate activist with environmental group Greenpeace, which supports the case, said it was “a very exciting moment” to see the Swiss government having to defend its climate protection efforts in court.
Klingler pointed out that the Swiss seniors’ complaint is one of three related cases that will be heard in court in the coming months and could set a precedent.
“These three cases will define how this very important court becomes involved in the greatest human rights threat we see today,” he said.
A verdict is expected next year.
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