Jul 30, 2021 News
By Carlos Gonsalves
Kaieteur News – UK-based researchers have recently said in a new report released in July that climate-related litigation has soared globally since 2015, with governments and private firms facing unprecedented challenges over their emissions.
The report, entitled “Global trends in climate change litigation: 2021 snapshot” has revealed that “globally, the cumulative number of climate change-related cases has more than doubled since 2015. Just over 800 cases were filed between 1986 and 2014, while over 1,000 cases have been brought in the last six years.”
The research highlights the climate change litigation trends since 1986 and found that there has been a total of 1,841 climate change related cases heard across 13 courts in 40 countries between 1986 and May, 2021. Of this figure, almost 55 percent or approximately 1,013 cases were filed since 2015, the year of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Additionally, it pointed out that the number of cases challenging government inaction or lack of ambition in climate goals and commitments continues to grow, with 37 ‘systemic mitigation’ cases identified around the world.
Of the 1,841 ongoing or concluded cases of climate change litigation from around the world, 1,387 were filed before courts in the United States, while the remaining 454 were filed before courts in 39 other countries and 13 international or regional courts and tribunals (including the courts of the European Union), the report found. The report notes that cases were filed for the first time in Guyana and Taiwan, as well as the East African Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights and that most cases have been brought against governments, typically by corporations, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals.
Litigation that may weaken or undermine mitigation or adaptation efforts is also a growing phenomenon, according to the report. This may include cases that have an intentional goal of opposing climate action, or cases that may not have such opposition as their main objective but may nonetheless result in delays or rollbacks of climate action or policies. Some of these cases may challenge the way in which climate action is carried out or its impact on the enjoyment of human rights, and can be seen as part of a new wave of ‘just transition’ litigation.
In a quantitative review of the outcomes of 369 decided cases found that 58% of cases (215) had outcomes favourable to climate change action, 32% (118) had unfavourable outcomes, and 10% (36) had no discernible likely impact on climate policy.
It was also found that 68 cases challenged the adequacy of climate action that concerned direct acts or omissions by government, while 25 cases focused on challenging government authorisation for third party activities.
The use of human rights arguments in climate cases continues to rise as 112 human rights cases have now been identified globally, with 29 of these cases filed in 2020 and a further five, up to May 2021. Ninety-three (93) of these cases have been brought against governments and 16 have been brought against companies. Positive judgments have been delivered in 25 of these cases and negative judgments in 32 (with other cases pending or settled).
Beyond the numbers, an unprecedented number of key judgments with potentially far-reaching impacts were issued in the past 12 months, including cases decided by the apex courts of Ireland, France, Germany and Pakistan.
The report states that it is expected that climate change litigation will continue to grow, reflecting the increasing urgency with which the climate crisis is viewed by the general public: “We also expect the range of claims and defendants to continue to diversify, reflecting an increased understanding of the role that multiple actors will need to play in the transition to a net-zero global economy.”
Additionally, it was stated that “Also anticipated is a continued rise in litigation against governments and major emitters that fail to adopt serious long-term strategies underpinned by concrete plans and short-term emissions reduction targets (including for acts and omissions up and down their value chains). Entities that act inconsistently with commitments and targets, or that mislead the public and interested parties about their products and actions, are also likely to continue to face increased volumes of litigation.”
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