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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

A climate lawsuit is proceeding in New Zealand as the New Zealand Supreme Court has denied the Defendant’s motion to dismiss. The case is brought against seven of the largest companies in the country and is particularly interesting because it alleges a brand new type of tort, the so-called “climate system damage tort.” Linklaters summarizes the cause of action stating:

“The Claimant argues that the greenhouse gas emissions from the Defendants’ activities have, or will continue to, contribute to ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system and to the adverse effects of climate change.” He argues that this will, in turn, cause harm and damage to coastal land and other resources in which he claims an interest.”

The article goes on to say that the Plaintiff based the new tort on longstanding theories of causation including 19th-century English common law. This means that the theory isn’t necessarily confined to the New Zealand legal system and may be adapted to future lawsuits in the UK or US  given the judicial system’s shared DNA. As climate litigation has become more common it isn’t unusual to see plaintiffs try new tactics and strategies. For example, the RICO arguments made by Puerto Rico in their case against major oil companies is considered novel. We’re likely to see plaintiffs globally use more unique and creative approaches to climate litigation. Many of these will likely fall by the wayside, but those that are successful will help shape the future of climate litigation for years to come.

Our members can learn more about global litigation trends here

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile