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Legally liable for climate change?


You may have seen some ‘funny’-sounding news items about Governments, fossil fuel firms and airlines being met with climate lawsuits. If you are a business, perhaps it’s time to take these stories seriously.

It all began in 2015 with a lawsuit brought by the Dutch environmental advocacy non-profit Urgenda, against the government of the Netherlands for not doing enough to halt climate change.

Anyone in government lawyers’ office who greeted this with an understanding smile, quickly stopped laughing when the suit began to succeed in various stages of the Dutch legal system.

Then, around the world, came what the BBC describes as a “tsunami” of cases on state carbon reduction targets and strategies, to corporate inaction and misinformation, and claims for climate-related damages.

Columbia State University has two databases tracking around 2,500 US and global climate change litigation.

In April 2024, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Switzerland was violating the human rights of its citizens by inadequate action on climate change.

More than 2,000 older Swiss women launched the case nine years ago and the Court’s ruling is expected to be binding enough to influence law in 46 countries in Europe.

So, if you have the possibility of taking action about climate change, why wait for legal action.

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