Free Webinar - European Court of Human Rights Climate Justice Judgments: Where Do We Go From Here?

Thursday 18 April 2024, 1-2pm


This webinar was brought to you by the Garden Court Environmental Law & Climate Justice and the Garden Court International Teams.

Date: Thursday 18 April 2024
Time: 1-2pm
Venue: Online  
Cost: Free
Areas of Law: Environmental Law and Climate Justice , International Environmental Law , Climate Change and Fossil Fuel Production , Garden Court International

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This webinar dissected the European Court of Human Rights' (ECtHR) landmark judgments in two climate justice cases which were delivered on 9 April at 10.30 a.m. in the Human Rights Building in Strasbourg.

The two cases in which Garden Court were instructed were that of Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland (application no. 53600/20) and Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Others (no. 39371/20). Lawyers who represented the Applicants in KlimaSeniorinnen and Duarte Agostinho and Dr Yusra Suedi, Lecturer in International Law at the University of Manchester, spoke at this event.

The rulings have paved the way for subsequent judgments addressing the responsibility of states under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) to prevent future climate-related harms.

Irena Sabic KC chaired the panel.

Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland (no. 53600/20)
Marc Willers KC and Richard Harvey, both of the Garden Court Chambers Environmental Law and Climate Justice Team, represented the Swiss Senior Women as part of an international legal team. The case was heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on 29 March 2023 and the ruling in their favour was delivered on 9 April 2024.

The Swiss Senior Women argued that their country's inaction on climate change has violated their human rights. They were concerned about the consequences of global warming on their living conditions and health, as they are particularly vulnerable to the climate crisis because their health is at risk from heat waves. They stated that the Swiss authorities are not taking enough action to mitigate climate change. This was the first ever climate change case of its kind to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights. 

The legal team is led by Cordelia Bähr and includes Marc Willers KC, Jessica Simor KC, Raphaël Mahaim, Martin Looser, Louise Fournier and Richard Harvey. Richard is a lawyer in Greenpeace International’s Legal Unit and is also a barrister at Garden Court Chambers. The case has received international press coverage, including BBC News, The Guardian, CNN, Reuters, The Independent and Marc Willers KC appeared on BBC World Service to discuss the case.

Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Others (no. 39371/20) 
Richard Reynolds and Paul Clark, both of the Garden Court Environmental Law and Climate Justice Team, were part of the legal team representing the youth-Applicants. The case was heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday 27 September 2023. 

The claim was brought by six Portuguese young people against 32 European states. The six youth-Applicants argued that these states are violating their human rights by failing to cut their emissions fast enough. The hearing was unprecedented in scale, involving the largest number of states ever brought before any court. 

The six youth-Applicants based their case on the detrimental impacts that climate change is already having on their physical and mental health, as well as the worsening impacts that they will experience in future. Recent heatwaves have confined them to their homes, limiting their ability to play and socialise outdoors, exercise, sleep and concentrate.

According to expert evidence presented to the Court, based on the current global warming trajectory, the youth-Applicants stand to endure heatwaves of over 40°C which last for a month or more. They also point to their exposure to increasing risks from other climate impacts such as wildfires, Atlantic storms and increased exposure to infectious diseases. 

The youth Applicants took their case straight to Strasbourg, without pursuing remedies in the national courts. They did so for several reasons, including the sheer urgency of the issues.

The Duarte Agostinho case was the first climate change case ever filed with the ECtHR. A judgment in the youth Applicants' favour would have compelled all 32 Respondent states to rapidly accelerate their climate action, and their efforts to reduce emissions.

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