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The Swiss Older Women Suing Their Government Over Climate Change

In 2020, a group of Swiss women aged 64 and over banded together to create a group called Klima Seniorinnen Schweiz — “Senior Women for Climate Protection Switzerland” — and they are now suing the Swiss government due to their inaction to halt emissions. Their case is on the grounds that the Swiss government is infringing on their fundamental rights by not curbing emissions that are threatening their health due to high temperatures and frequent heat waves.

Members of the KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz demonstrate outside the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.
Members of the KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz demonstrate outside the European court of human rights in Strasbourg. (Jean-François Badias/AP via The Guardian)

KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz is arguing that the rising temperatures and heat waves have disproportionately affected elderly women, who are more at risk for heat-related deaths. Just last summer, almost 60,000 people died due to heat-related causes in Europe, as temperatures have soared throughout the past years. Switzerland itself has had temperatures rising two to three times faster than the global average. Specifically, research has shown that elderly women are more at risk to die from the rising heat. So far, the next step for the KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz is to await the judgment of the jury, which should be released by the end of the year.


There have been other similar cases around the world based on the principle that governments have not been executing their obligations to the people and have not established the security and safety of their citizens. For example, in Australia, the indigenous people living in the Torres Strait filed a lawsuit against the Australian government claiming that the government has failed to protect them against the effects of climate change. This caused the United Nations human rights committee to determine that the Australian government had failed to safeguard the indigenous people in the Torres Strait from the impacts of climate change.


Ultimately, the KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz will have to prove a direct correlation between the Swiss government’s negligence in stopping climate change and rising temperatures to the impediment of a person’s basic rights. Regardless of the ruling, the KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz v. Switzerland case will be revolutionary. But if the courts find that the Swiss government should be held liable for evading their obligations for the safety of their people, it will clearly state to the world that democratic governments have a legal responsibility to halt climate change.


How can you help?

Today, you can take direct action to sign a petition in support of the Kilma Seniorinnen Schweiz: https://www.greenpeace.org/international/act/support-klimaseniorinnen/


Extra steps you can take:

  1. Joining Kids Fight Climate Change: If you want to make climate change news and information more accessible, you should consider joining us! Check out this link: Join the Team | Kids Fight Climate Change: Youth Climate Education. There are more opportunities than just writing, including designing, editing, speaking, and publishing.

  2. Volunteering at advocacy groups: VolunteerMatch is a great resource to find volunteer opportunities, virtual and in-person. Check out this link: VolunteerMatch

  3. If neither of those options applies to you, there are still ways to raise awareness! Simply by sharing articles such as this one, you are doing your part to spread important climate information. That is activism.


Sources

KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz. Accessed August 8, 2023. https://en.klimaseniorinnen.ch/. Kwai, Isabella. “Heat Waves Are Killing Older Women. Are They Also Violating Their Rights?” The New York Times, August 6, 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/06/world/europe/heat-wave-older-women-lawsuit.html. Niranjan, Ajit. “Heatwave Last Summer Killed 61,000 People in Europe, Research Finds.” The Guardian, July 10, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jul/10/heatwave-last-summer-killed-61000-people-in-europe-research-finds. Borenstein, Seth, and Dana Beltaji. “Climate Questions: Why Do Small Degrees of Warming Matter?” AP News, November 6, 2022. https://apnews.com/article/science-climate-and-environment-cefd6c94f01dc07dcb8905ee0f59cb82. Chow, Denise. “1 Million Species under Threat of Extinction Because of Humans, Biodiversity Report Finds.” NBC News, May 6, 2019. https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/1-million-species-under-threat-extinction-because-humans-report-finds-ncna1002046. “What Is the Sixth Mass Extinction and What Can We Do about It?” World Wildlife Fund. Accessed August 8, 2023. https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/what-is-the-sixth-mass-extinction-and-what-can-we-do-about-it. “Switzerland Climate Resilience Policy Indicator – Analysis.” International Energy Administration, February 18, 2022. https://www.iea.org/articles/switzerland-climate-resilience-policy-indicator. Kaminski, Isabella. “Switzerland and France Accused of Lack of Climate Action in ECHR Hearing.” The Guardian, March 29, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/29/switzerland-and-france-accused-of-lack-of-climate-action-in-echr-hearing.



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