European Court of Human Rights Issues Landmark Climate Ruling with Implications for Türkiye and Beyond


In a landmark judgment, the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) recently handed down a judgement on climate-related legal disputes, setting a precedent that has attracted attention beyond the country's borders, including in Türkiye. The case, Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland (Complaint no. 53600/20), underlines the increasing recognition of climate change as a human rights issue and the legal obligations of states to address it.

The judgement of the ECtHR is based on a complaint by the association KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and others against Switzerland. The applicants claimed that Switzerland's failure to comply with climate targets violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Relying on the case law of the ECtHR, including in cases involving Norway, Spain, the UK and Belgium, the court ruled in favour of the applicants and found that Switzerland had not taken sufficient measures to mitigate climate change, thereby violating the rights of its citizens.

This judgment has potentially significant implications for Türkiye and other countries facing climate change. It signals a shift towards human rights accountability of governments for their climate commitments and is a further step towards transforming soft law into hard law. It is therefore essential for lawyers and policy makers in Türkiye to closely scrutinize the ruling and its potential impact on national climate policy and litigation.

It is also worth mentioning that similar climate-related cases were heard by the ECtHR. However, the court dismissed two other cases as inadmissible: one brought by the former mayor of a coastal town in France for increased risk of flooding due to climate change and another brought by a group of young people in Portugal against 33 signatory states to the Paris Climate Agreement for failing to meet their emission reduction commitments. Although these cases were deemed inadmissible because domestic legal recourse had not been exhausted, they underline the general trend that climate lawsuits before international courts are gaining in importance, which can have an impact on governments worldwide.

Decision of the UN Committee as a Previous Milestone

Prior Milestone

Prior to the ECtHR's landmark judgement, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child had made important findings in a case in which young activists accused Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and Türkiye of violating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child due to insufficient action against greenhouse gases. Referring to a 2017 recommendation of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on environmental rights, the Committee found that the Convention imposes extraterritorial obligations on states to combat climate change and that the collective nature of climate change does not relieve states of their individual responsibility. This decision laid the foundation for recognizing the overlap between human rights and climate change and paved the way for further legal developments, including the judgment of the ECtHR.

Impact on Green Litigation in Türkiye

The judgement of the ECtHR is expected to have a significant impact on case law in Türkiye. Although Turkish courts have so far dismissed climate change-related claims on various legal grounds, the ECtHR's judgement sets a precedent for the consideration of climate-related issues under human rights law. This could lead to a change in the attitude of the Turkish judiciary towards environmental claims and open up the possibility for individuals and groups to take climate-related claims to court.

In particular, the ECtHR's judgment could prompt Turkish courts to rethink their approach to environmental claims and consider the wider human rights implications of climate change. This could lead to greater judicial scrutiny of Türkiye’s environmental policies and practices and increase pressure on the government to take meaningful action to tackle climate change.

While the ECtHR's judgment is an important development in international climate policy, it is important to recognize that it is only part of a broader global movement towards greater responsibility for climate change. Moreover, the recent lawsuit filed by the complainants A.S., S.A. and E.N.B. against the Ministry of Environment challenging Türkiye’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions ("NDCs") to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ("UNFCCC") underscores the urgency of legal action and the relevance of the ECtHR's judgement to national climate processes in Türkiye. Although the case was dismissed, the challenge serves as a stark reminder of the intersection of climate policy and human rights law and emphasises the ongoing struggle to address climate change through legal means. It is imperative that states implement legal frameworks to implement international agreements on climate change in order to mitigate the risk to their markets and fulfil their responsibilities in this area.


The landmark judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland is a pivotal moment at the intersection of climate change and human rights law. The ECtHR has set a precedent with far-reaching consequences by recognizing the failure of states to adequately address climate change as a violation of civil rights.

For Türkiye, the judgement is of particular importance as it signals a possible change in the legal approach to climate-related human rights issues. While Turkish courts have so far been reluctant to allow lawsuits against climate change, the ECtHR's judgment provides a basis for reassessing this stance and prioritizing the protection of civil rights in the face of environmental challenges.

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