Although the issue of climate change has been on the international agenda for decades, the urgency of the debate is growing. The effects of climate change are also becoming increasingly visible; the last five years have been the hottest years on record, and in turn have borne witness to a large increase in natural disasters connected to climate change; Hurricane Katrina, Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, severe droughts across Africa in 2017 and 2019, record temperatures across Europe and most recently the 2019 Australian bushfires, have helped to draw global attention to the impact of climate change.
However, notwithstanding the increasing body of scientific research and public studies and reports indicating that we are reaching a tipping point in the global fight on climate change, global carbon output continues to climb. It is against this backdrop that we have seen a significant increase in climate change litigation, as institutions, individuals and in some cases countries and states, look to the courts as an alternative means of enforcing action against climate change.
According to the 2020 report "Global trends in climate change litigation" published by the London School of Economics, to date there have been 1,587 cases of climate litigation brought globally as of July 2020. A significant number of these cases (1,213 cases) have been brought in the US. However, there is also an increasing trend in climate change litigation in Europe, and elsewhere. As of July 2020, the London School of Economics calculates that there have been 62 climate litigations brought in the UK and 57 climate litigations brought in EU bodies and courts. We are also seeing a broadening spectrum of claimants bringing climate change related litigation, and increasingly we are seeing claimants adopt novel approaches in order to allege legal liability in relation to issues of climate change.