According to national and international law, the Swiss government committed itself to keeping global temperatures under 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The Federal Act on the Reduction of CO2 Emissions (CO2 Act) established targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20% by 2020, and 30% by 2050, and provided for measures to meet those targets. The applicants argued these targets and measures were insufficient and that resulting global warming is affecting the rights of older persons, a vulnerable demographic at relatively higher risks. They alleged violations to Articles 10 (right to life and personal freedom), 73 (sustainable development) and 74 (protection of the environment) of the Constitution, and Articles 2 (right to life) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The applicants submitted the request to the Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC), seeking an order for the government to correct the CO2 Act and preliminary legislative proceedings on this matter be initiated, with the goal of increasing targets to a 25% reduction by 2020 and 50% by 2030. The request was dismissed due to a lack of standing under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). On appeal, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court also dismissed the case, finding that Swiss women over 75 years old are not the only population affected by the impacts of climate change, and that the requested remedy would not specifically apply to the petitioners. The Supreme Court is currently hearing an appeal.
Environmental Legal Questions:
- Do the applicants have standing? Article 25(a) APA is intended to subject government action that indirectly affects rights and obligations to judicial review. However, DETEC indicated that Article 25(a) APA has to be interpreted with reference to Article 48(1) APA, finding that the applicants’ requests were made in respect of public interests and not sufficiently close to their own interests. Similarly, the Court found that the applicants were not affected by the government’s climate protection measures “in a way that goes beyond that of the general public.” Therefore, the applicants were not found to have standing.
- Did the Swiss government violate the rights of the applicants and older persons? The Court found that a reduction of the general risk of danger could not be achieved directly through the actions that the applicants demanded. Thus, the Court found that DETEC was not obligated on the basis of Article 6(1) ECHR to enter into the matter raised by the appellants nor to issue a material ruling on this matter.