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European Court Broadens Human Rights Convention to Incorporate Climate Damage

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that governments must consider the impact climate change has on a person’s health.


On April 9, 2024, the European Court of Human Rights rendered a significant judgment that will likely have global implications on climate change law and litigation, including in Australia.

In a 16 to 1 decision, the Court found that the Swiss authorities had violated Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights by not taking effective and timely measures to address the impact of climate change on the plaintiffs.

A group of elderly women over 70 claimed that government inactivity had adversely affected their health and put the well-being of future generations at risk. The organization representing them, Verein KlimaSeniorinnen, was established to advocate for climate protection on behalf of its members.

The Court Expands the Convention on Human Rights

Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights guarantees the right to respect for private and family life, home, and correspondence.

While traditionally understood to cover aspects like family decisions and communication, the Court has interpreted this provision more broadly through judicial activism to address new challenges.

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This approach to interpretation aligns with the Convention being described as “A Living Instrument” on its official website.

According to the Court, Article 8 now includes the right of individuals to receive protection from state authorities against severe climate change impacts on their life, health, well-being, and quality of life, drawing on international declarations like the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Court acknowledged the findings of the IPCC regarding human-caused increases in greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on global warming, affirming the settled science of climate change.

Room for Doubt on Climate Science?

Contrary evidence suggests that carbon dioxide may not be the primary driver of temperature increases on Earth.

In Australia, research by scientist Ian McNaughton challenges the link between carbon dioxide and rising temperatures by analyzing temperature records over the past century.

McNaughton’s work suggests that concerns over increasing CO2 concentrations should be reevaluated and that enhancing plant growth through CO2 may benefit humanity without causing harm.

This and similar studies raise questions about human influence on climate change.

Despite this, Article 8 of the Convention specifically addresses the right to respect for private and family life, suggesting that imposing obligations on governments beyond this scope to combat global warming may exceed the Article’s intended boundaries.

Such extensions raise concerns as human rights charters are meant to protect individuals from governmental overreach.

While the Australian climate change lobby may support the Court’s decision, it’s essential to critically examine the implications of settled climate science on the Australian population.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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