Home Tech Europe Rules That Insufficient Climate Change Action Is a Human Rights Violation

Europe Rules That Insufficient Climate Change Action Is a Human Rights Violation

0 comment
Europe Rules That Insufficient Climate Change Action Is a Human Rights Violation

Nevertheless, the positive ruling for the KlimaSeniorinnen is praised by legal experts as extremely important. In this case, the court did not accept complaints from individuals within the group, but did accept complaints from the group itself as an organization – a distinction that could influence how people collectivize and approach European courts with similar cases in the future, says Heri.

She adds that there was a possibility that the court could have ruled that the European Convention on Human Rights does not actually require climate action. Had that happened, it could have undermined existing rulings by European domestic courts, which have demanded stricter climate policies from governments. For example, The Brussels Court of Appeal ruled this last year that Belgium must reduce its emissions by 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

Today’s verdict comes after years of lawsuits related to climate change increasingly rapidly in courts around the world. In the US in 2023, for example a judge ruled that the state of Montana is violating the right of sixteen young people to a ‘clean and healthy environment’.

Higham says the ECtHR ruling is “likely to have repercussions around the world.” She notes that there are about 100 similar cases pending in various courts worldwide, also challenging governments over their efforts to limit climate change. Heri agrees, noting that the ECtHR is seen worldwide as a highly influential international court.

Jorge Viñuales of the University of Cambridge, who specializes in law and environmental policy, says it is remarkable that Switzerland has violated human rights law, despite having relatively good climate policies. However, he criticizes the ECtHR’s decision not to admit the case brought by the Portuguese youth. Part of the court’s reasoning was that their case was not just against Portugal, but against all EU member states and five other countries. “The court seems to misunderstand that the climate system is everywhere and that effective control over the source of the damage must count,” Viñuales said.

A big question in climate change-related lawsuits centers on its impact: Do they actually have enough influence to push countries and big companies to reduce emissions faster than planned? Higham says there is evidence this is already happening. In the Netherlands, the Supreme Court has ordered the government to reduce emissions by 15 megatons by 2020and a sharp drop in emissions followed. “We do see policy changes in the Netherlands that seem to have been influenced by that judgment,” says Higham.

The ECtHR ruling could also revive cases that have had problems in some countries under the ECtHR’s jurisdiction, such as Britain. This is “hugely important,” says Tim Crosland, director of Plan B, a legal group that challenged the British government over its climate policy but ultimately lost the case in 2021. “The Supreme Court said, ‘Your fundamental problem is that there is no precedent from Strasbourg to support your position that fundamental rights have been violated,’” Crosland says. “Well, there is now.”

Defendants in future cases may feel that their country’s own emissions are only a fraction of those responsible for climate change and that it is therefore unfair to favor one state over many others. However, the ECHR ruling does not exaggerate the individual obligations of countries, says Crosland. Each state has a share of the global carbon budget to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Switzerland is of course not responsible for the emissions of the US or China, but it is responsible for its own emissions – and that is stated in the judgment,” he explains.

You may also like