Swiss Grannies launch legal challenge to demand stronger climate action

Press release - 25 October, 2016
Bern, Switzerland, 25 October 2016 - More than 450 women aged 65 and over, today joined a global wave of legal actions demanding climate justice. The group launched a legal challenge to the Swiss Government’s climate policies, highlighting shortfalls that are putting their lives and future generations at risk.

KlimaSeniorinnen (“Senior Women for Climate Protection”) sent a formal legal complaint to the Swiss Government and three administrative bodies responsible for national climate policies.[1] This move marks the first step in a new climate lawsuit. The case will proceed to court if the government fails to comply with the demands.

“As a grandmother, one of my most important tasks is to ensure the future quality of life of our grandchildren and our planet," said Rosmarie Wydler-Wälti, co-president of KlimaSeniorinnen.

The Government’s climate policies are unlawful and violate constitutional rights because they fail to limit warming to the politically agreed ‘safe level’, according to the group. They demand an immediate increase in the ambition of national climate targets for 2020 and 2030.

According to scientific research, older women are among the most vulnerable groups in a warming climate. Studies of heatwaves in Europe show they are more likely to get sick or die of dehydration, heatstroke, cardiac and circulatory problems.[2]

Under the Paris Agreement governments around the world committed to immediate action to keep global temperature rise well below 2 or even 1.5 degrees Centigrade. The Paris Agreement enters into force on 4 November 2016.

“Failure to develop and implement robust climate policies has real-life consequences. Switzerland must do its fair share to limit temperature rise and dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions. In an era of climate crisis, the women of KlimaSeniorinnen are modern day heroes seeking to protect the health and lives of current and future generations. Greenpeace is proud to stand with them,” said Georg Klingler, climate campaigner for Greenpeace Switzerland.

The Swiss legal challenge is the latest in a growing wave of climate justice-related cases being brought against governments and fossil fuel companies. People have filed actions in countries including Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, and the Philippines.[3]

“Around the world groups are standing up for climate justice and putting laggard governments and fossil fuel companies on notice. Governments have an obligation to protect the rights of people who are most vulnerable to climate change. With the Paris Agreement, countries must end the era of weak climate policies. If they don’t act now, we will see a lot more people taking governments and corporations to court,” added Klingler. 

Notes to editors:

Photos available here

[1] English summary of the complaint (pdf)  and official complaint in German (pdf)

[2] Studies include, Report on excess mortality in Europe during summer 2003, for the European Commission (pdf)

[3] Climate justice-related legal cases around the world include

  • Netherlands: Nearly 900 citizens with the Urgenda Foundation filed a climate case against the Dutch government. In 2015 they won forcing the state to make more stringent greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2020. 

  • Norway: This month, young people, with Nature & Youth and Greenpeace Nordic, filed a lawsuit against the government for granting new licenses to oil and gas companies for drilling in the Barents Sea. 

  • The Philippines: Disaster survivors, community groups and Greenpeace Philippines successfully petitioned the Human Rights Commission to launch an investigation into the responsibility of fossil fuel companies for human rights impacts of climate change. The investigation is ongoing. 

  • Canada: The Inuit community of Clyde River will have their case heard before the Supreme Court of Canada on 30 November 2016 to demand that the permits issued by the National Energy Board in 2014 to conduct seismic exploration in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait be cancelled. Clyde River argues that seismic blasting is a known and often fatal threat to marine mammals and further impacts Inuit hunting, their way of life, and food security. These permits were granted without adequate consultation or consent from Inuit, which is a violation of their rights as Indigenous Peoples.  and 

  • USA: US youth, with the support of Our Children’s Trust, are charging ahead with their federal constitutional case seeking the adoption of a national science-based Climate Recovery Plan. 

Media contacts:

Georg Klingler, Climate & Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Switzerland, +41 79 785 07 38,
Greenpeace International Press Desk, +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours),