Climate Litigation

Fast & Fair: The Climate Transition, with DLA Piper – Episode 2

How can climate litigation help accelerate us to a zero emissions future? In May this year a court in the Netherlands ruled that Shell must reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels (Shell is appealing). The case was brought by environmental group Friends of the Earth and 17,000 Dutch citizens, who were named as co-plaintiffs. Around the same time in Australia, a group of eight teenagers and a nun took the government to court over plans to extend a coalmine. The judge ruled the environment minister had a duty of care to protect young people from the effects of climate change.

Buoyed by this and other similar victories, there are currently around 40 cases underway around the world that seek to accelerate government action preventing climate change. Activists are also teaming up with lawyers to use different legal arguments to take on the corporates. These include:

  • challenging company risk disclosure,
  • asking whether directors are fulfilling their duties to shareholders if they are not adapting business models to account for changing market conditions due to climate change,
  • declaratory requirements to align with the Paris Agreement goals and
  • polluter pays cases, for example, where where big companies have wrecked natural ecosystems with their practices.

But activists and lawyers won’t have it all their own way. Where organisations are at risk of legal action, they might seek to change the laws. “The blowback from climate litigation successes is well and truly mounting – it’s called ‘green lawfare’,” explains Alice Garton, Director of Global Legal Strategy at the Foundation for International Law for the Environment (FILE), our guest on this podcast. Find out more by tuning in.

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