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The case of KlimaSeniorinnen, a Swiss organization of older women, is being brought to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), with their case becoming the first citizens’ climate case to reach the ECtHR in Strasbourg.

In total, more than 2,000 senior women from Climate Protection Switzerland took their government to the European Court of Human Rights in 2020 because of the thread their lives and health are facing due to climate change-fueled heat waves. The ECtHR has fast-tracked their case, which will be heard by its 17-Judge Grand Chamber.

The case (Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland, Application no. 53600/20) will set a precedent for all 46 states of the Council of Europe and determine whether and to what extent a country such as Switzerland shall reduce its greenhouse gas emissions more stringently to protect human rights.

Anne Mahrer, co-president of Senior Women for Climate Protection, said: “We have filed a lawsuit because Switzerland is doing too little to limit climate catastrophe. Rising temperatures are already taking a toll on our physical and mental health. The big increase in heat waves is making us, older women, sick.”

Cordelia Bähr, lawyer of the Senior Women for Climate Protection Switzerland, said: “Elderly women are extremely vulnerable to the effects of heat. There is substantial evidence to show that they are at a significant risk of death, as well as ill health as a result of heat. Accordingly, the harm and risks caused by climate change is sufficient to engage the State’s positive obligations to protect their right to life, health and well-being as guaranteed by Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

This case is a milestone for the human rights and climate change movement, which at the same time paves the way for other civil society organizations and NGOs in the rest of Europe to follow in their footsteps.