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Climate Change in Human Rights Courts

ALLEA – All European Academies | Helen Keller

Overcoming procedural hurdles in transboundary environmental cases

Human rights bodies usually examine cases brought by individuals who have been impacted in a specific way by an act of their home State. By contrast, a new and atypical kind of case is currently emerging before domestic and international human rights bodies around the world. These are cases in which applicants allege that their human rights have been violated because of States’ and corporations’ failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These cases are atypical not only because of the number of potential victims involved and the global nature of climate change, but also because the harms in question are often still in the future. These cases push human rights bodies to evaluate political decisions and scientific evidence. They raise questions about how to balance economic and environmental interests, how to provide redress for large-scale or systemic problems, and whether it is appropriate to allow human rights bodies to accept claims in the public interest.

To date the European Court of Human Rights has never decided a climate change case. The first two applications, however, have been filed and communicated to the parties. This lecture discusses the most significant admissibility issues that these climate change cases will face before the European Court of Human Rights and show how the Court could ensure that these admissibility hurdles could be overcome and thus climate cases can finally receive full consideration on the merits.



This event can be attended digitally via livestream or in-person with a limited on-site audience.

Online: Registration is free and open via Zoom here.

On-site: Due to limited seats, attendance to the on-site event will be by invitation only. If you wish to attend this event in person, please indicate it in the Zoom registration.

Zur Übersicht

Helen Keller

Universität Zürich

Helen Keller is Chair for Public Law, European and Public International Law at the University of Zurich. She is a former member of the UN Human Rights Committee and served as Judge at the European Court of Human Rights in the period of 2011-2020. In December 2020, she was appointed Judge to the Constitutional Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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Embassy of Switzerland, Germany
Otto-von-Bimarck-Allee 4A
Berlin, Berlin 10557 Germany

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