ICN calls Swiss lawmakers rejection of climate ruling in favour of female climate elders extremely disappointing and a retrograde step

Climate Change
13 June 2024
Klimaseniorinnen Interview screenshot

Updated with interview clips

Retired nurse and member of the KlimaSeniorinnen, a group of older Swiss women, Pia Hollenstein, told the International Council of Nurses (ICN) that the ruling of Swiss lawmakers rejecting a climate ruling in favour of the group felt like a betrayal but also had grave implications for the wider battle against climate change.

Ms Hollenstein said, “Yes, we are appalled by this decision which feels like both a betrayal of older women but is also out of step with humankind’s collective responsibility to tackle climate change for the benefits of vulnerable groups and the future of all humankind. As a nurse I have seen how climate and health are intrinsically linked, good health and a safe climate go hand-in-hand.”

Ms Hollenstein added that KlimaSeniorinnen would continue to stand up in the fight against climate change both in court and the public domain, not just for older women but for everyone.

ICN CEO Howard Catton said: “You may want to deny a legal process, but you cannot deny the evidence of climate change and its impact on health. The planet is heating up, we are responsible, not enough is being done to resolve climate change and vulnerable people, including older women, are suffering. Evidence of health harm created by global warming is clear, what hope is there for people in low-income countries, threatened by catastrophic weather conditions, islands sinking into rising seas, when a country like Switzerland will not even recognize the vulnerability of its own elder people? Our colleague from the KlimaSeniorinnen, Pia Hollenstein, has spoken to us eloquently and passionately about the link between health and climate. For her and her colleagues it is a significant setback, but it also has serious implications for all of us who are committed to tackling climate change.”

The KlimaSeniorinnen, a Swiss group of around 3,000 women aged 64 years or older took the government of Switzerland to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for violating their human rights by failing to set sufficient climate targets. In April the senior women won a historic victory. However yesterday Switzerland’s parliament voted to reject the ECHR’s ruling. But this is not a final decision. The Swiss government is expected to react on the ruling in August.

In an earlier interview with ICN, Ms Hollenstein agreed that climate change was the biggest threat to global health and that it was crucial that nurses had a prominent voice in the debate because they brought their experiences from the frontline working with patients affected by global warming.