Climate Change in Court: Overcoming Procedural Hurdles in Transboundary Environmental Cases

In: European Convention on Human Rights Law Review
Helen KellerChair for Public Law and European and Public International Law, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Judge of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights, a position held from October 2011 until December 2020, Strasbourg, France,

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Abigail D PershingRecent Graduate of Yale Law School; Robina Fellow at the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France,

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Climate change and its consequences will likely be the defining human rights challenge of the 21st Century. The European Court of Human Rights is well-placed to help shape the response to this looming crisis. Indeed, the first four applications concerning climate change have recently been filed before the Court. However, the applicants in these pending cases, as well as potential applicants in any future climate cases, will have to overcome significant procedural hurdles to ensure that the Court will hear their arguments on the merits. This article discusses some of the most significant issues that applicants seeking to bring climate cases will face, which include proving exhaustion of domestic remedies, establishing that the applicants have victim status, and demonstrating that the applicants face a significant disadvantage. This article considers how the Court can ensure that these admissibility hurdles do not preclude climate cases from receiving full consideration on the merits.

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