As the impacts of a warming climate system become more apparent and countries across the globe begin to implement mitigation and adaptation measures, the issue of climate change has increasingly arisen in litigation. While there has been substantial literature examining how the issue of climate change has manifested in U.S. courts, this article is the first large-scale assessment of climate change litigation outside the United States. Based on an empirical study of all reported non-U.S. litigation, this article discusses what types of claims have arisen; how climate litigation varies by jurisdiction; who the key players are; and what their primary goals are. Drawing upon these findings, this article assesses how courts have dealt with the issue of climate change and the role litigation is playing in the formation of climate change policy.

This comprehensive assessment reveals that climate change litigation is almost entirely concentrated in five jurisdictions: Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The nature of these suits varies widely across jurisdictions, reflecting each jurisdiction’s unique legislative and regulatory framework, energy portfolio, and legal system. Generally, however, non-U.S. climate change cases have mostly been tactical suits aimed at specific projects or details regarding implementation of existing climate policies, especially emissions trading systems. In examining climate change jurisprudence, this article finds that the courts accept the scientific consensus surrounding climate change and tend to treat climate change much like any other environmental issue.

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