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12 Nov 2021

Kumaravadivel Guruparan & Harriet Moynihan, Chatham House

Recent ‘rights turn’ in climate change litigation is a trend set to continue, says Chatham house

"Climate change and human rights-based strategic litigation", 11 Nov 2021

  • Rights-based climate litigation is helping to bridge the gap between international pledges and governmental action at the national level, constituting an important ‘bottom-up’ form of pressure on governments to do their ‘fair share’ in tackling climate change.
  • Human rights-based cases against governments are taking a range of formats: challenging not just inaction on climate change (as in the Urgenda case against the Netherlands), but also governments’ failure to honour existing commitments (as in the Leghari case against Pakistan) and climate change strategies that themselves contribute to human rights violations.
  • Global South countries that have led the way in socioeconomic rights jurisprudence are likely to be particularly fertile jurisdictions for human rights-based climate cases in future.
  • Cases against corporations are set to increase, aided by the trend for human rights due diligence laws that concretize corporate responsibilities on human rights into hard law. An increasing proportion of rights-based cases are being brought by young people on behalf of future generations, including high profile cases before the European Court of Human Rights (such as Duarte Agostinho and Others v Portugal) and a petition by Greta Thunberg and 15 others before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that represents a major step forward for child rights cases.