the ECHR examines applications against France and Switzerland, a first
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For the first time on Wednesday, the European Court of Human Rights is considering in public hearing climate applications against France and Switzerland. Swiss retirees denounce the consequences of global warming on their health, while Paris is being sued by the former mayor of a northern town threatened by rising waters.
This is a first: the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) examines Wednesday, March 29 two requests related to climate change targeting France and Switzerland, accused of not acting sufficiently against its effects.
Swiss pensioners denounce the consequences of global warming on their health, while Paris is being sued by the former mayor of a northern town threatened by rising waters.
This is the first time that the ECHR, which sits in Strasbourg, has considered in public hearing climate applications, after a multiplication of legal actions at the national level.
In 2019, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ordered the government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020, after a complaint from an environmental association. In 2021, the administrative court of Paris had condemned the State to “repair” the consequences of its shortcomings in the fight against global warming, giving reason to a group of four NGOs united under the banner “the Affair of the century” and supported by a petition of more than 2.3 million citizens.
On Wednesday, the ECHR will begin by studying the Swiss case at 9:15 a.m., followed by the French case at 2:15 p.m. The Court is not expected to issue its decisions for several months.
“It’s a historic event,” said Anne Mahrer, 64, one of the spokespersons for the association “Les Aînées pour la protection du climat suisse”. Supported by Greenpeace Switzerland, this association has more than 2,000 members, with an average age of 73, of whom around fifty will travel to Strasbourg, Anne Mahrer told AFP.
For 20 years, “all reports show that everyone is affected” by global warming, and “elderly women” are “particularly vulnerable in cardiovascular or respiratory terms”, supports this former ecologist MP.
Before the ECHR, his association intends to invoke several violations of articles of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, in particular that guaranteeing the right to life.
The action of the Elders to force Switzerland to do more for the climate had started in 2016, with a series of appeals, which remained in vain. However, Switzerland is “a rich country (…) which should be exemplary and which is not”, believes Anne Mahrer.
The second file examined is a request from the former mayor of Grande-Synthe (North), Damien Carême, now MEP for Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV). In 2019, he had, in his own name and as mayor, seized the Council of State for “climate inaction”, considering that his town, located on the coast, was threatened with submersion.
The highest administrative court had given reason in July 2021 to the municipality, leaving nine months to France to “take all useful measures” in order to bend “the curve of greenhouse gas emissions” to respect the objectives of the Paris Agreement (-40% by 2030 compared to 1990). Damien Carême’s request on his own behalf had however been rejected and he had seized the ECHR.
The 62-year-old MEP maintains that France’s “deficiency” in relation to its objectives affects him “directly” since it “increases the risks that his home will be affected” by the rising waters, indicates the Court in a press release.
“The stakes are extremely high,” former environment minister Corinne Lepage, Damien Carême’s lawyer, told AFP. If the ECHR agrees with the latter, “this case law would apply in all the States of the Council of Europe and potentially in all the States of the world”.
In addition to these two cases, the ECHR will examine, probably after the summer, another major climate case, that of young Portuguese who have assigned their country as well as 32 other States for their supposed inaction against global warming.