The Increasing Climate Litigation Trend

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Climate adaptation climate litigation a trend to curb carbon emissions

The Economist article features a growing global trend in climate litigation as communities feel the impacts of climate change.

Climate litigation started in its infancy in the early 2000s with a few court cases filed against oil companies or government agencies like the EPA, writes Catherine Brahic, The Economist’s Environment Editor on the “The Climate Issue” eNewsletter.

Since then, the number of cases related to climate justice has grown steadily, Brahic said.

She cited the earliest climate-related cases like the Massachusetts vs EPA, where 12 states and several cities argued that the federal Environmental Protection Agency had a duty to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The supreme court ruled 5-4 that the EPA must regulate the CO2 emissions from motor vehicles if they are found to endangering public health and welfare.

Another was the Kivalina vs ExxonMobil case. The rising sea levels threaten the coastal village, forcing them to relocate at a cost between $95 to 400 million. The village sought reparations from more than 20 energy companies. Unfortunately, the court ruled in favour of the oil companies.

From a handful of cases, litigations have grown significantly, especially after the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The Sabin Centre for Climate Change Law in New York and the Grantham Research Institute in London collect data on climate-related cases, showing that of the 1,950 cases, more than 1,000 were filed post-Paris Agreement.

According to the Economist article, “Lawsuits aimed at greenhouse-gas emissions are a growing trend,” the Paris Agreement has resulted in greater awareness of climate change and made things more actionable.

The article presents court cases filed against governments where the court ruling has successfully prompted them to increase climate ambition and oil companies to speed their decarbonisation.

Younger generations filed some cases arguing that the older ones infringe upon their human rights. Others are seeking funds to pay them for the future impacts of climate change. Others have dragged on, some are stunts, and many have failed.

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