Commentary: "5 ways to litigate on climate change"

Author: Claudia Delpero, on Road to Paris, Published on: 26 October 2015

[E]xperts at ClientEarth, a non-profit group promoting environmental protection through litigation and advocacy, predict that governments and businesses will be increasingly challenged for failing to address global warming. Here are the five main legal grounds for filing:

1. Health and environmental laws. Legislation on environmental impact assessments, public health, habitat protection, clean air and chemical pollution provides a sufficient legal basis to halt carbon intensive projects. Invoking EU regulations, for instance, environmental groups including ClientEarth have challenged the construction of 14 new coal-fired power stations in Poland...

2. Market regulation. With fossil fuel subsidies amounting in 2013 to 550 billion USD worldwide, of which 100 billion goes to producers, this should be fertile ground for legal disputes..

3. Loss and damage. There is no history of success in these cases, as it is hard to attribute specific responsibility– and establish the extent of the reparation – to a company or a government for the harm caused by climate events...“But surely there will be successful climate cases in the future. The first to be won may not be for financial compensation, but to reduce emissions.”

4. Duty of care for citizens. Human rights laws can be used to obtain stronger climate action. In a historic first, a court in The Hague ruled the Dutch government should adopt tougher emissions targets based on a case brought by environmental group Urgenda...

5. Long-term financial risk. Litigation on long-term investment decisions is generally associated with pension funds, but it concerns all industries subject to the direct impacts of global warming, C02 regulation or technological competition from low carbon alternatives. The idea is that by ignoring the risks of climate change, companies expose themselves to value losses over time. Lawsuits could be brought in these cases under the principle of fiduciary duty...

[Refers to Shell]

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Related companies: Royal Dutch Shell (Shell)