The government has rejected a complaint by a group of women in Switzerland that accuses it of failing to combat climate change.
The environment ministry said that it is not in a position to deal with the appeal handed in by 459 senior citizens last October, because it lacks the power under the Swiss political system, which includes direct democracy.
“The climate policy is decided by parliament as well as by people’s initiatives and referendums but not by a court,” according to a ministerial statement published on Tuesday.
The petitioners said older women in particular suffer from the effects of climate change, including long heat waves.
They wanted the government to take additional measures to ensure that human rights and climate goals enshrined in the Swiss constitution are respected. They argue it is not enough to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
A recent World Health Organisation reportexternal link provides some support for the petitioners’ claims. The report says that “many of the health risks that are likely to be affected by ongoing climate change show gender differentials.”
The legal instrument of a citizen complaint is new for Switzerland, but similar steps have been taken successfully in the Netherlands and the United States.
The plaintiffs said they will decide next week whether to appeal against the decision.
Last year the group also said they could consider taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights if they don’t receive a satisfactory response.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/ug