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Switzerland Considers Defying Climate Court Order

Switzerland’s lower house of Parliament is voting on Wednesday whether to reject an order by the European Court of Human Rights demanding the country step up efforts to fight climate change in what could be an unprecedented move in Europe.  

The court ruled in April that Switzerland had violated the right to respect for private and family life of Swiss elderly women because it has failed to implement sufficient measures to combat climate change.

The landmark judgment in the case Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland acknowledges that states have the responsibility to combat climate change to protect human rights.

In the lawsuit, a group representing more than 2,500 older Swiss women argued that their government’s failure to adequately mitigate global warming violated their human rights to health and life and put them at risk of dying during heat waves.

Switzerland, while not a member of the European Union, is part of the Council of Europe and one of the 46 signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court ruling in April is the first such regional judgment, which sets a precedent for all signatories of the convention.

Switzerland, however, has been defiant toward the ruling so far.

A parliamentary committee has rejected the ruling, while the upper house slammed the court’s “judicial activism”. The upper house, leaning right, has argued that Switzerland does not need to take further action because it is already doing enough to combat climate change.

Apart from setting precedents, the Swiss case highlights the backlash against climate rulings globally.

If Switzerland refuses to implement the court ruling to do more to fight climate change, it could “set a concerning precedent, undermining the role of legal oversight in democratic governance,” Isabela Keuschnigg, legal researcher with the London School of Economics, told Reuters.

If the Swiss were to formalize a refusal to implement the court’s decision, this would be unprecedented in the Council of Europe.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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