Press release

Substantive assessment delayed

The plaintiffs’ concerns are clear. They want Holcim to quickly reduce its absolute and relative CO2 emissions, pay compensation for the climate damage they have already experienced, and contribute to the required adaptation measures. They argue that any party which, like Holcim the carbon major, contributes substantially to climate change and in so doing garners billions in profits, must also be accountable for the impacts of a climate that has been thrown out of kilter. So far, so simple.

However, rather than its accountability, Holcim prefers to discuss procedural matters in court. At the company’s request, the litigation is now subject to a “limited procedure” and is focusing mainly on two questions: Is civil law the right legal recourse? And: Is there an interest worth protecting in the lawsuit brought by the plaintiffs? To the plaintiffs, the answers to these questions are clear: Only civil liability law can answer the question of whether a private company can be held accountable for climate damage partly caused by its business activities. As residents of the tiny island of Pari, where flooding is becoming ever more frequent, the plaintiffs also face an existential threat from climate change – partly caused by Holcim – and this is already the case today. A more cogent legitimate interest is virtually inconceivable.

In the view of plaintiffs, it is therefore high time for Swiss Courts to examine the substance of their concerns and, in particular, clarify the obligations to which Holcim is subject as a carbon major. Holcim, in contrast, is attempting to delay the clarification of the actual legal issues. Apparently, the Zug-based company wants to shy away from any substantive legal examination of its activities and their repercussions on the plaintiffs. But with its current tactic, Holcim could delay this ruling, possibly for several years. Climate change, for its part, cannot be stalled. It continues to advance every year, the sea level is rising, and Pari Island, which is the basis of the plaintiffs’ existence, is being hit harder and more frequently by flooding.