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Climate cases doubled... integral to securing climate justice: UNRP report

The number of climate change court cases worldwide has more than doubled since 2017 and continues to grow steadily, says UN report

By B. Mohita
New Update
Climate cases doubled... integral to securing climate justice: UNRP report

The number of climate change court cases worldwide has more than doubled since 2017 and continues to grow steadily, as per the latest findings published recently by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, Owing to its significant rise, the report says that climate litigation is now being considered a crucial force in ensuring climate action and justice.

The report, titled "Global Climate Litigation Report: 2023 Status Review," is based on an extensive examination of cases of climate change law, policy, or science across the world. 

The report observes that the total number of such cases has more than doubled, increasing from 884 cases in 2017 to 2,180 cases by 2022. While the majority of these cases have been reported in the United States, litigation cases are seeing a rise in developing countries as well with a share of approximately 17%.  This indicates a growing global recognition of the urgent need to address climate change through legal means. In addition, there are a broader geographic representation of litigants seeking climate justice.

“Climate policies are far behind what is needed to keep global temperatures below the 1.5°C threshold, with extreme weather events and searing heat already baking our planet. 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”

said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. 

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Global Climate Litigation Report 

This report provides a broad overview of the current trends in climate litigation, showing how litigation has become a key driver of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Key trends identified in the report include: 

  • Ongoing and increasing numbers of cases rely on human rights enshrined in international law and national constitutions to compel climate action. 
  • Challenging the domestic enforcement (and non-enforcement) of climate-related laws and policies 
  • Seeking to keep fossil fuels and carbon sinks in the ground 
  • Claiming corporate liability and responsibility for climate harms
  • Advocating for greater climate disclosures and an end to greenwashing on the subject of climate change and energy transition 
  • Addressing failures to adapt and the impacts of adaptation

Future trajectory 

The report also tries to foresee the future trajectory of climate litigation. In doing so, it indicates a rise in cases related to migrants, internally displaced individuals, and asylum seekers seeking relocation due to climate change impacts on their home countries or regions. Additionally, it predicts an increase in climate-related cases brought forth by Indigenous communities. Indigenous communities' distinct lifestyles and close association with nature face a larger threat from the ill effects of climate change.

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