A group of senior women are willing to fight for climate change action – even in court.
The Club of Climate Seniors – a 2,000-strong cohort of 64-and-older Swiss women – has brought a lawsuit to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming theirs are being violated by politicians’ inaction around the ongoing crisis. Proceedings begin this week.
“Due to climate change, we have more heatwaves, and older women suffer more,” Elisabeth Stern of the Club told the BBC. “They die more often during these heat waves than they otherwise would.”
Research from UN Women shows that women are hurt in more significant ways by rising global temperatures and dwindling access to natural resources – namely, loss of income and educational opportunities.
Rising temperatures are an especially pressing concern for the western European nation, as its landlocked status denies it the cooling effects that come from bordering on a body of water. And Stern adds to the BBC that senior women have a stake in that matter. “Some people say, ‘Why are you complaining? You’re going to die anyway.’ But we don’t want to die just because our Swiss government has not been successful in coming up with a decent climate policy.”
The case was first introduced back in 2016, CNN reports, in light of what the Club says is a failure to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. Specifically, the Swiss government had been tasked with cutting its 1990 emissions levels by 50% before 2030.
Instead, following a failed voter referendum in 2021, a pared-back version of climate-change legislation was crafted, and is presently making its way through the country’s legislature.
Experts say that version is not good enough and fails to ensure the safety of Swiss citizens. Now, the Club is hoping to strongarm politicians into more concrete action by way of court mandates. Similar cases, brought by individuals in France and Portugal are also reportedly pending.
And if such efforts succeed, they could start an international domino effect.
“This is the first time ever that the [European Court of Human Rights] is engaging with a climate case,” Corina Heri, a researcher at the Institute of Law of the University of Zurich, said to CNN. “What the court decides on these questions will be defining for its other climate cases, and will send strong signals to courts all across the Council of Europe – and around the world.”