2018: The Year of Climate Litigation – Courts are the new frontline in the fight against climate change
Posted on: 07-05-2018
In the coming year, courts in Europe will hear cases against the Governments of Ireland, the UK, the
Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Norway. Globally, cases are proceeding in the Philippines,
India, and at State and federal levels in the US.
On Monday 7 May, plaintiffs, lawyers and campaigners representing five cases in Europe will
attend the UN climate talks in Bonn to discuss legal actions that aim to ensure that European
leaders deliver their fair share of greenhouse gas cuts. This includes groundbreaking court cases in
Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Norway.
Sadhbh O’Neill, Friends of the Irish Environment: “Ireland’s per capita emissions are among the
highest in the EU, and our emissions are projected to increase by 7.5-10% by 2020 compared to 1990.
This is the opposite of what’s needed: to help avoid dangerous climate change, Ireland has
recognised that it needs to reduce its emissions by 25-40% by 2020 compared to 1990. We’re asking
the Government to revise its National Mitigation Plan to make it consistent with Ireland’s
Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel to the Urgenda Foundation: “Despite the Paris Agreement, too
little is being done to address rising global temperatures. But we can help our politicians to fulfil
their Paris commitments and their legal duties to protect us from climate chaos. We proved this
can be done for the first time in the Netherlands: the court ruled in our favour and judged that the
State needs to take more action against climate change. Unfortunately, despite protests from the
opposition, scientists, lawyers and citizens, the Government has appealed the judgment, even
though it has been drafting new policies to comply with the Urgenda judgment. On 28 May, we will
be back in court.”
Serge de Gheldere, Klimaatzaak Belgium: “Climate change is the biggest threat to our welfare and
wellbeing worldwide. Out of that concern, a group of Belgian citizens initiated THE CLIMATE CASE
(Klimaatzaak) in 2015. It is a lawsuit against the Belgian government highlighting the huge gap
between the commitments made in international climate agreements and our Government’s actions.
Inspired by the victory in Urgenda’s case against the Netherlands, we believe that court rulings are
a powerful tool to get things moving. The CLIMATE CASE now has more 35,000 Belgian co-plaintiffs.
It is the biggest and most important lawsuit Belgium has ever seen, showing judges that our
demands are not on behalf of a few hippies, but legitimate legal claims.”
Juan Pablo Osornio, Greenpeace International: “Our political leaders are on notice. If they do not
live up to their obligations to protect human rights and prevent climate change, they will be taken
to court. In Bonn, the mandate is clear: countries must agree on a transparent and ambitious rule
book to close the gap between the Paris goals and the woefully inadequate national commitments.
Until governments take action, communities will see them in court to protect their lives and livelihoods. The successful lawsuits brought in Colombia, Pakistan, New Zealand and the Netherlands
provide a roadmap for doing so.”
A new report from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment counts
more than 1,000 climate cases that have been filed worldwide, and confirms that these cases could
have a significant impact in holding governments accountable for climate change.
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Global Trends in Climate
Litigation and Legislation: http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/wpcontent/uploads/2018/04/Global-trends-in-climate-change-legislation-and-litigation-2018-snapshot-2.pdf
UN Environment, Sabin Centre for Climate Change Law: New Study Identifies Key Trends in
Worldwide Climate Change Litigation: http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/files/2017/05/New-studyidentifies-key-trends-in-worldwide-climate-change-litigation-May-23-2017.pdf
Full database of climate change cases: http://climatecasechart.com/
Dennis van Berkel, Urgenda/CLN – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sadhbh O’Neill, Friends of the Irish Environment—email@example.com
Greenpeace International– firstname.lastname@example.org
Serge de Gheldere, KIimaatzaak Belgium—email@example.com