New figures show climate litigation is growing risk to fossil fuel industry and other companies
Almost 500 climate litigation cases have been filed around the world since 2020, and legal action poses a growing risk for the fossil fuel industry and other companies, as well as governments, according to a new report published today (30 June 2022) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
The report on ‘Global trends in climate change litigation: 2022 snapshot’, by Joana Setzer and Catherine Higham, shows that 475 cases were filed between 1 January 2020 and 31 May 2022. Of these, more than two-thirds (321) were filed in the United States and almost 7 per cent (32) were in countries of the Global South.
The authors analysed records of 2002 current or past cases of climate litigation since 1986. Cases have been filed in 44 countries and 15 international or regional courts and tribunals, including the courts of the European Union. Nearly a quarter were filed since the start of 2020.
The authors found that there are a growing number of cases targeting the fossil fuel industry and other companies. The report states: “Cases against the Carbon Majors and other companies involved in the extraction of fossil fuels or the provision of fossil energy have continued to proliferate, now more significantly outside of the US.”
The report continues: “Cases are also being filed against a more diverse range of corporate actors. In the calendar year 2021, while 16 of the 38 cases against corporate defendants were filed against fossil fuel companies, more than half were filed against defendants in other sectors, with food and agriculture, transport, plastics and finance all being targeted in multiple cases.”
The authors analysed all of the 454 cases outside the United States for which outcomes are known and concluded that 54 per cent (245) were “favourable for climate action”.
The authors also identified a number of trends in climate litigation. For instance, they found that more legal challenges are targeting the production and consumptions of oil, coal and gas.
The report states: “Climate litigation cases have played an important role in the movement towards the phase-out of fossil fuels. Cases integrate arguments about governmental support for fossil fuel use – whether through policies, permits or subsidies – with arguments about human and constitutional rights.”
The authors note that such cases are increasing in number in countries of the Global South “where litigants are mounting large-scale challenges to policies that would involve the development of untapped fossil fuel reserves and ‘lock in’ development pathways dependent on fossil fuels”.
The authors also draw attention to potential future trends, stating “we anticipate more litigation focusing on personal responsibility (ranging from criminal actions to cases focused on the duties of directors, officers and trustees to manage climate risks), but also international litigation addressing the prevention of and redress (or ‘loss and damage’) for climate change”.
They also expect “a continued rise in litigation against governments and major emitters challenging commitments that over-rely on greenhouse gas removals or ‘negative emissions’ technologies, as well as cases that are explicitly concerned with the climate and biodiversity nexus”.
The report will be launched today (30 June 2022) at an event on ‘Global Trends in Climate Litigation’ at the London School of Economics and Political Science, as part of London Climate Action Week.
For further information about the study, or a copy of ‘Global trends in climate change litigation: 2022 snapshot’, please contact Liam Collins on firstname.lastname@example.org, or Bob Ward on email@example.com or +44 (0) 7811 320346.
Notes to Editors
The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment was established in 2008 at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The Institute brings together international expertise on economics, as well as finance, geography, the environment, international development and political economy to establish a world-leading centre for policy- relevant research, teaching and training in climate change and the environment. It has an active body of work on sustainable finance, including carbon assessment, central banks, the just transition, resilience and sovereign bonds. It is funded by the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, which also funds the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and Environment at Imperial College London. www.lse.ac.uk/grantham/