Swiss environment minister plays down impact of European climate ruling – Times of India
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VIENNA: A European Court of Human Rights ruling last week that Switzerland has failed to protect its people from climate change is hard to reconcile with direct democracy, the Swiss environment minister said in a newspaper interview, appearing to play it down.
The Strasbourg-based court found in favour of more than 2,000 Swiss women – a third of them over 75 – who said their country’s inaction in the face of rising temperatures puts them at risk of dying during heatwaves.
The April 9 ruling cannot be appealed and the Swiss Federal Office of Justice, which represented the government before the court, said it must be implemented. It said it would analyse the ruling to determine the measures the country needed to take.
“The ruling means we have to explain to the Council of Europe what measures we have taken. I don’t think we need to worry about that,” Environment Minister Albert Roesti said in an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger published on Saturday, pointing to various existing initiatives.
The Council of Europe is an international organisation that seeks to promote democracy and human rights and which the ECHR is part of.
Roesti belongs to the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which has the most seats in the lower house of parliament. After the court ruling the SVP said Switzerland should withdraw from the Council of Europe, calling the ECHR judges “puppets for activists”.
Roesti said he did not believe that would be the right move.
“I do not think we should grant the ruling even more attention by taking such a step. But I do ask myself how these two things can be reconciled: a population that decides by direct democracy and an international court,” he said.
Switzerland regularly holds referendums on various proposed initiatives. Roesti cited the example of its target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, which was approved by referendum.
Swiss voters rejected tougher measures on carbon emissions in a referendum in 2021, however, Roesti said.
“That shows what the problem is with international courts. Judges cannot overrule that referendum,” he said.

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