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5 Oct 2021

Stephanie Eaton, Signature Litigation LLP, Michael Rawlinson & Samuel Cuthbert, 12 King’s Bench Walk, on Lawyer Monthly (UK)

Significant increase in climate change cases filed globally against corporations

"Enforcing Individuals’ Rights with Climate Change Litigation", 1 Oct 2021

…[T]he number of climate change cases filed globally has significantly increased from 834 between 1986 and 2014, to 1006 cases being filed since 2015 (the year of the Paris Agreement). This surge of cases throws the issue of the enforcement of individuals’ rights and corporate obligations by private parties (often in groups) litigating against companies into the limelight.

In Milieudefensie v Royal Dutch Shell, a number of environmental NGOs successfully argued that Shell owed a duty to Dutch citizens to protect them from the negative impact of climate-change …

In the UK …[b]oth Vedanta Resources Plc v Lungowe [2019] … and HRH Emere Okpabi v Royal Dutch Shell [2021] … have demonstrated a willingness from the UK Supreme Court to consider a broadened understanding of corporate liability.

[In] the New Zealand case of Smith v Fonterra Co-Operative Group Limited … The court struck out the climate change claims brought in negligence and nuisance, but refused to strike out the claim for breach of an inchoate climate-change duty of care.

[T]he UK case of Ella Kissi-Debrah was the first … case in which the coroner found that air pollution was a contributory cause of illness and death due to the child’s asthma being worsened by high levels of air pollution in the area in which she lived

The ongoing German case of Lliuya v RWE … provides a further example of private law being used to challenge climate change by recognising the possibility that a private company could be responsible for the effects of its emissions offshore…

… it is likely that private law climate change litigation will continue to gain traction across the globe.