First ever climate change victory in Europe court

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Court case winners celebratingImage source, Getty Images

A group of older Swiss women have won the first ever climate case victory in the European Court of Human Rights.

The women, mostly in their 70s, said that their age and gender made them particularly vulnerable to the effects of heatwaves linked to climate change.

The court said Switzerland’s efforts to meet its emission reduction targets had been woefully inadequate.

It is the first time the powerful court has ruled on global warming.

Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg joined activists celebrating at the court in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

“We still can’t really believe it. We keep asking our lawyers, ‘is that right?’ Rosemarie Wydler-Walti, one of the leaders of the Swiss women, told Reuters news agency. “And they tell us it’s the most you could have had. The biggest victory possible,”

The ruling is binding and can trickle down to influence the law in 46 countries in Europe including the UK.

The Court ruled that Switzerland had “failed to comply with its duties under the Convention concerning climate change.”

It also found that “there had been critical gaps” in the country’s policies to tackle climate change including failing to quantify reductions in greenhouse gases – those gases that warm Earth’s atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas.

The Swiss women, called KlimaSeniorinnen or Senior Women for Climate Protection, argued that they cannot leave their homes and suffer health attacks during heatwaves in Switzerland.

Rosmarie Wyder-Walti and Anne Mahrer, of the Swiss elderly women group Senior Women for Climate Protection

Image source, Getty Images

On Tuesday data showed that last month was the world’s warmest March on record, meaning the temperature records have broken ten months in a row.

The court dismissed two other cases brought by six Portuguese young people and a former French mayor. Both argued that European governments had failed to tackle climate change quickly enough, violating their rights.

Member of the KlimaSeniorinnen Elisabeth Smart, 76, told BBC News that she has seen how the climate in Switzerland has changed since she was a child growing up on a farm.

‘Not made to sit in a rocking chair and knit’

Asked about her commitment to the case for nine years, she said: “Some of us are just made that way. We are not made to sit in a rocking chair and knit.”

Governments globally have signed up to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

But scientists and activists say that progress is too slow and the world is not on track to meet the crucial target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C.

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