News | 16 April 2024

A historic day for climate mitigation

European Court of Human Rights rules on climate cases
Banner "We <3 Klimaseniorinnen"

What were the three cases brought to the ECtHR about?

The first case was brought to the ECtHR by the Swiss Association ‘KlimaSeniorinnen’, a group of senior women who suffer from health issues caused by global warming. In their lawsuit, they argue that the Swiss government is not taking sufficient measures to mitigate climate change and protect their health. National courts had previously rejected the case before the group eventually brought it to the ECtHR.

The second case before the ECtHR was initiated bysix young Portuguese individuals against Portugal and 31 other states. The grievous effects of climate change, such as forest fires, extreme heat waves, and drought, negatively affect their overall lives, wellbeing, and mental health. They are calling on the ECtHR to oblige states to more ambitious climate mitigation measures. The case made legal history as the first climate case ever to be heard by the ECtHR involving that many states.

The third case before the ECtHR is that of a former French mayor whose municipality is threatened by flooding, a consequence of climate change.

All three cases were assigned high priority by the ECtHR and thus transferred to the Grand Chamber in 2022. Oral hearings were held in Strasbourg in March and September 2023. On 9 April, the 17 judges announced their judgments.

How did Germanwatch support the cases?

Together with partner organisations (including CAN Europe, Greenpeace, Scientists for Future, Fridays for Future, and Protect the Planet), Germanwatch introduced further legal arguments into the proceedings of the Swiss KlimaSeniorinnen and the six Portuguese youth by means of a ‘third-party intervention’. As intervener, Germanwatch emphasised the necessity and feasibility of ambitious emission reductions, especially with regard to Germany. The arguments were also presented in a constitutional complaint of nine young individuals against an inadequate German climate protection act that was brought before the German Federal Constitutional Court in 2020. The plaintiffs received support by Germanwatch and other organisations and the court ruled in their favour with a landmark decision in 2021.

In addition to the intervention at the European Court of Human Rights, Germanwatch is supporting the Peruvian mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya in his civil lawsuit against the German energy giant RWE. The court is currently gathering evidence and the oral hearing is expected for the second half of 2024.