Climate change litigation becomes a global trend, new report says

Author: Dana Drugmand, Climate Liability News, Published on: 13 July 2019

"Climate Litigation Has Become a Global Trend, New Report Shows", 8 Jul 2019

Climate change-related lawsuits, once mostly limited to the U.S., have now been filed in nearly 30 countries, targeting governments and corporate polluters, according to the latest analysis of the trend. 

A new report was published last week by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. It tracks the progress of the suits—filed since 1990—as they have expanded beyond the U.S., and predicts the trend will continue...

While these and the majority of other climate lawsuits seek to hold governments accountable, climate litigation is increasingly targeting corporate entities like fossil fuel producers. The report notes that a “new wave” of climate liability cases against these companies benefits from research that has shown the so-called Carbon Majors, a group of 90 companies, have been responsible for nearly two-thirds of carbon pollution since the Industrial Revolution. The cases also lean on the growth in attribution science, which links extreme weather events to climate change.

“In cases that seek to establish the liability of greenhouse gas emitters for harm, climate science can be critical to determining whether litigants have standing to sue. Science is an essential part of new litigation cases, substantiating that defendants’ actions have caused the plaintiffs harm,” the report said. 

The cases against fossil fuel producers also seek to establish that the companies knew about the consequences of burning fossil fuels decades ago but deliberately worked to deny or cloud that risk to the public by funding front groups to undermine climate science and block climate policy. Plaintiffs in these suits seeking compensation for climate-related costs include municipal governments plus the state of Rhode Island and one commercial fishing association. ExxonMobil is also facing several investor lawsuits and a case brought by the New York attorney general alleging the oil giant misrepresented climate risks to shareholders...

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