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Elderly Swiss women bring European court’s first climate case

Elderly Swiss women bring European court’s first climate case
The European Court of Human Rights building stands in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images

STRASBOURG, March 29 (Reuters) - Thousands of elderly Swiss women have joined forces in a groundbreaking case that opened on Wednesday at the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that their government's "woefully inadequate" efforts to fight global warming violate their human rights.

The first climate change case at the Strasbourg court has been brought by a group of Swiss female pensioners who claim that their country’s inaction in the face of rising temperatures puts them at risk of dying during heatwaves.

The case is expected to be followed by two others and would set an important precedent since the women’s’ lawyers are seeking an ambitious ruling that could force Bern to cut carbon dioxide emissions much faster than planned.

Several dozen of the women joined by supporters and climate activists from Greenpeace gathered outside the courtroom ahead of the start, holding banners and flowers.

Bruna Molinari, who is 81 and suffers from asthma which she says is aggravated by excessive heat, told Reuters she hoped the outcome would at least benefit generations to come. “As a grandmother and mother, I think they have the right to have a climate that is better than the one we have,” she said, coughing throughout.

Stefanie Brander, a member of the association Senior Women for Climate Protection, said that she felt the government had underestimated the group until now.

“We were taken for old women who did not have a clear idea of the issues … and I think that could now turn against them,” she told Reuters outside the courtroom.

The Swiss government, which twice won in domestic courts in a six-year legal battle, has argued that the case is inadmissible. Bern’s lawyer Alain Chablais told the court in opening remarks that any prescriptive measures issued by the court would represent an overreach, giving it a “quasi-legislative” role.

Eight other governments have joined the case and one of them, Ireland, is set to address the court later on Wednesday. The court will also hear a case brought by Damien Carême, a member of the European Parliament for the French Green party, who is challenging France’s refusal to take more ambitious climate measures.

(Reporting by Emma Farge, editing by Giles Elgood)

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  • Josie Rowe-Setz says:

    Dear DM
    Does their age really matter?

  • Roslyn Cassidy says:

    “When you strike a woman, you strike a rock.” These words are from the famous resistance song that came to symbolise the courage and strength expressed at the Women’s March of 1956 as South African women refused to give into increasing oppression without some form of protest. The men in the ANC at the time did not want the women to march, saying the women would embarrass them because they wouldn’t know how to organise. Oh.

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