Recently, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in favor of 2,000 Swiss women, aged 64 and above, who sued the Swiss government for failing to combat climate change effectively.


  • The case was brought by Klima Seniorinnen Schweiz, a group of senior women climate activists, citing violations of their right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • This ruling has significant implications for climate-related human rights cases across Europe and beyond, potentially influencing similar litigation globally.
  • They argued that inadequate climate policies exposed them to extreme heat, citing reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighting increased vulnerability of senior citizens to climate-related health issues.
  • The ECHR found Switzerland in violation of Article 8 of the convention, which guarantees protection from the adverse effects of climate change.
  • ECHR is an international court that interprets the European Convention on Human Rights based in Strasbourg, France, established in 1959.
  • Notably, the verdict has come just days after the Supreme Court of India expanded the scope of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty), saying people have a “right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change”.

About the elderly Swiss women

  • The association comprises a small group of women over retirement age, united by shared concerns about climate change.
  • Formed in August 2016, their primary objective is to advocate for increased efforts to achieve the targets outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • The Paris Agreement sets targets for states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, aiming to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • After eight years of legal battles in Swiss courts, the group decided to escalate their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

International Context:

  • Growing Trend: The Swiss case is emblematic of the increasing trend of climate litigation worldwide, with over 2,000 cases filed in 65 jurisdictions as of December 2022.


  • Urgenda Foundation vs. Netherlands (2019): Dutch court ordered the government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster.
  • Leghari vs. Pstan (2015): Pakistani High Court directed the government to develop a comprehensive climate change plan.
  • Juliana vs. United States (ongoing): American youth suing the US government for its role in climate change.

Climate change litigation in India:

Legal Grounds:

  • Right to Life (Article 21): The Indian Constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. The judiciary has interpreted this right to include the right to a healthy environment. Climate change poses a significant threat to life, health, and well-being, creating a potential legal basis for litigation.
  • Article 48A: This article explicitly mandates the state to protect and improve the environment. Climate inaction by the government could be seen as a violation of this right.
  • Landmark Case: In 2020, the Supreme Court recognized the right to a clean environment as an integral part of the right to life. This judgment strengthens the legal grounds for climate change litigation in India.
  • Existing Examples: While large-scale climate litigation like the Swiss Women case hasn’t materialized yet, there have been cases in India raising similar concerns:
  • Residents of Tehri vs. Tehri Dam Project (1996): This case highlighted the environmental and social impacts of large development projects.
  • Public Interest Litigation (PIL) vs. Government of India (2013): This PIL sought action against deforestation contributing to climate change.
  • Similar case In 2017, a nine-year-old girl from Uttarakhand argued for greater action to mitigate climate change based on India’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and existing environmental laws. Her petition was rejected.

Significance of the Ruling:

  • While the ruling does not prescribe specific policies, it obliges the Swiss government to update its climate policies in line with scientific evidence.
  • This landmark decision sets a precedent for climate litigation, as it applies to 46 member states of the ECHR, potentially encouraging similar cases worldwide.
  • It underscores the responsibility of governments to pursue ambitious climate action, aligning with international human rights law.
  • It could also embolden more communities to sue their governments for not taking adequate steps to mitigate the effects of climate change.


The ECHR’s ruling for Swiss women highlights the link between climate change and human rights, setting a global precedent for climate litigation. Such litigation is an effective tool to hold governments accountable for their actions on climate change.

Also Read:

Government reveals forest records after 28 years