Climate change Climate litigation on the rise


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“People are increasingly turning to courts to combat the climate crisis, holding governments and the private sector accountable and making litigation a key mechanism for securing climate action and promoting climate justice.”

One example of this is the legal action filed by an group of 6 Portuguese youths against 33 European governments to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over what they say is a failure to adequately tackle global heating.

The total number of climate change court cases has more than doubled since 2017, according to a report published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. This global increase in climate litigation reflects a growing trend where legal action is being used as a means to secure climate action and justice.
The report, titled "Global Climate Litigation Report: 2023 Status Review," is based on a comprehensive review of cases related to climate change law, policy, or science, collected up to December 31, 2022. It is significant that this report is released on the first anniversary of the UN General Assembly's declaration of access to a clean and healthy environment as a universal human right.

The key findings of the report include:
1. Rapid Growth in Climate Litigation: The number of climate change cases has surged from 884 in 2017 to 2,180 in 2022, more than doubling in just five years. While the majority of cases originated in the United States, climate litigation is now taking root globally, with about 17% of cases occurring in developing countries.
2. Diverse Legal Venues: Climate litigation is being pursued in a variety of legal venues, including international, regional, and national courts, tribunals, and other adjudicatory bodies. This includes special procedures of the UN and arbitration tribunals.
3. Increasing Role of Courts: As climate policies lag behind the necessary actions to limit global temperature rise to below the 1.5°C threshold, more people are turning to the courts to hold governments and private sectors accountable, making litigation a crucial mechanism for advancing climate action and justice.
4. Influence on Climate Policy: Climate litigation has led to greater accountability, transparency, and justice. It has also compelled governments and corporations to pursue more ambitious climate change mitigation and adaptation goals.
5. Focus on Vulnerable Groups: The report highlights that vulnerable groups, including children, youth, senior women, and Indigenous peoples, are increasingly using the courts to address climate-related issues affecting their communities.
6. Key Climate Litigation Cases: Notable cases mentioned in the report include the UN Human Rights Committee finding Australia's government in violation of human rights obligations to Torres Strait Islanders due to climate inaction, Brazil's Supreme Court recognizing the Paris Agreement as a human rights treaty, and a Dutch court ordering Shell to reduce its carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
7. Future Trends: The report predicts an increase in cases related to climate migration, Indigenous rights, local communities, liability after extreme weather events, and challenges in applying climate attribution science. It also anticipates a rise in "backlash" cases aimed at dismantling climate regulations.

In summary, the report underscores the growing significance of climate litigation as a tool for advancing climate action and justice worldwide. It highlights the increasing role of courts in holding governments and corporations accountable for their climate-related actions and failures.

Everything is right, while everyone is silent, there are people who are not only dissatisfied with what is happening, but are also ready to do something to improve the situation. A dialogue with the authorities can be a start. Why not.

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