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Nonsense in court ruling on climate

15 April 2024

The European Court of Human Rights sits in Strasbourg. Photo Guilhem Vellut via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

A ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), delivered on 9 April, found that Switzerland is guilty of failing to reduce its emission targets sufficiently. This represents an enormous threat to the notion of national sovereignty.

The court found in favour of a group of, mostly elderly, Swiss women, who argued that they were particularly vulnerable to the effects of heatwaves allegedly linked to climate change. In effect, Switzerland is being penalised for failing to control the weather!

These women, who possibly regard themselves as latter day suffragettes, have argued that they cannot leave their homes during heatwaves in Switzerland. With the support of Friends of the Earth they claimed that their “right to respect for private and family life” was violated.

Against logic

This flies against logic and common sense. In this Alpine region, as in many parts of the world, being too cold is five times more dangerous to health than being too warm, prompting thousands of 70-year olds to flock to sunnier climes during winter.

Switzerland has a constitution allowing for national policy to be set by direct referendum. In 2021 the Swiss people voted to reject such a change to its climate policies. This ruling by the EHCR overturns that vote.

“Positive obligations”

The court needed little invitation to agree that the women’s rights under article 8 of the of the European Convention on Human Rights (“privacy”) were denied because Switzerland did not comply with its “positive obligations” on combatting climate change.

In doing so, the ECHR has set itself up as having the final say in what nation states should do about climate change. It mattered not that article 8 was drafted to prevent states from interfering with their citizens’ lives and that past rulings only triggered that article where the threat was “real and imminent”.

Nor did it matter that Switzerland has a good record on population adjusted levels of CO2 emissions, and is accepted as performing reasonably well on climate change – even by zealots who always want more.

‘The ECHR sees its role to promote of maximum action on climate change, regardless of the wishes of sovereign nations.’

The ECHR is a transnational body set up by the Council of Europe shortly after World War Two. It now sees its role to advocate and promote of maximum action on climate change, regardless of the needs and wishes of sovereign nations.

And we can expect more of this far-fetched legalistic nonsense. A day or two after the ruling, it emerged that a man is going to court against the British government for the coastal erosion in Norfolk that caused him to lose his home. Again Friends of the Earth is supporting the action.

More claims

Coastal erosion in parts of Norfolk has been with us for centuries, but that appears to have no bearing. Britain is to be sued for failing to control the tides or to alter geology. And more claims are already in the pipeline for the ECHR.

The largest political party in the Swiss parliament has called for the country to leave the Council of Europe. Whatever happens in that country, it’s in Britain’s interest to sever permanently our connection to the unelected, anti-democratic ECHR.