Recently, Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law – along with the UNEP – published the 2023 update to their periodic report on global climate litigation. The report, published every three years since 2017, shows a continuing increase in climate litigation with total number of cases rising from 884 in 2017 to 2,180 in 2023. The cases unsurprisingly emerge primarily in the US, with roughly 70% of climate cases in US courts.
The report identifies the following six trending topics for climate litigation:
- Ongoing and increasing numbers of cases relying on human rights enshrined in international law and national constitutions to compel climate action
- Challenging the domestic enforcement (and non-enforcement of climate-related policies)
- Seeking to keep fossil fuels and carbon sinks in the ground
- Claiming corporate liability and responsibility for climate harms
- Advocating for greater climate disclosures and an end to greenwashing
- Addressing failures to adapt and the impacts of adaptation.
The Sabin report corroborates similar reports from recent years – meaning litigation risk for companies is growing and changing in nature. Not only should companies assess their own climate litigation exposure, but they should consider how climate rulings against governments may impact their operations. Our members can track the latest developments in civil litigation and regulatory enforcement on our Compliance / Enforcement / Litigation Subject Area page.