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21 Sep 2017

Sophie Marjanac, ClientEarth

New Californian climate lawsuit against ‘Big Oil’ filed

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Another lawsuit against ‘Big Oil’ for the effects of climate change has been filed in California. The cities of San Francisco and Oakland, on behalf of the people of California are suing BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell over the company’s contribution to current and projected impacts from sea level rise in California.

The case is similar to those filed in July by the counties of San Mateo, Marin and the City of Imperial Bay, also on the basis of the common law of public nuisance...

[Plaintiffs] claim that the ‘Big Oil’ defendants have contributed to the current concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, by directly causing emissions, but also by indirectly through their lobbying and marketing activities....

This case is part of an ongoing trend toward more climate change litigation, and a growing global recognition that the business and political activities of the world’s largest corporations are contributing to loss and damage arising from climate change.

Regardless of the outcome, this case highlights the mounting costs of climate change and raises legitimate questions about whether private interests that have profited from emissions should bear some of the cost. After all, the polluter pays principle is fundamental to both environmental and tort law.