Climate Change in the Courts: An Assessment of Non-U.S. Climate Litigation

Wilensky, Meredith

Since 2011, the Sabin Center has maintained a compilation of climate change cases from outside the United States. This paper casts light on the “who, what, why, and how” of climate change litigation and investigates the role of the courts in the development of climate change policy outside of the United States. This study includes all climate change litigation decisions we have found from all jurisdictions outside of the U.S. through 2013. Cases were only included in the study if climate change played a central role in the issues being considered by the court. Through this process, 173 cases were identified. Several points emerge from a comparison of U.S. and non-U.S. litigation. U.S. climate change litigation has far outpaced climate litigation in any other jurisdiction. In fact, more lawsuits concerning climate change have been decided or settled in the U.S. than in the rest of the world combined. U.S. climate change litigation also differs from non-U.S. litigation in its role in the development of climate change policy. Litigation has played a central role in driving the course of climate regulation in the United States though it has not played nearly as important a role in the development of climate regulation anywhere else. Thus, while much climate litigation in the U.S. is strategic, seeking either to force or to block GHG regulation, climate change litigation elsewhere is primarily tactical, aimed at specific projects or details of European Union Emissions Trading System implementation.


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Academic Units
Sabin Center for Climate Change Law
Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia University
Sabin Center for Climate Change Law White Papers
Published Here
July 16, 2015