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In the relentless struggle against climate change, an unexpected ally is emerging – the law. As environmental disasters intensify worldwide, linked indisputably to human activity, people are increasingly seeking justice and accountability in the courts. A recent UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law report revealed a significant rise in climate-centered lawsuits globally – up to 2,180 by the end of 2022, a 100% increase since 2017.
Source: DW Documentary/YouTube
These lawsuits, predominantly filed in the US, aim to halt fossil fuel projects, combat deceptive marketing, and carve out new legal precedents. They seek to expose fossil fuel companies accused of misleading the public on climate science, some even being charged with organized crime. Simultaneously, climate-conscious citizens and environmental groups across the globe are urging governments to recognize the human rights implications of Climate change.
These legal battles have a powerful “equalizer effect,” diversifying geographically and representationally. Traditionally concentrated in the US and Europe, more climate lawsuits are now arising from the Global South, raising questions about compensation for climate damages. The number of jurisdictions hearing such cases has more than doubled in the past five years.
The courtroom has become a platform for marginalized groups more vulnerable to climate change – including youth, women, and indigenous people – demanding everything from a halt in fossil fuel development to compensation for climate damages.
Although lawsuits will never substitute for comprehensive policy and international cooperation, they play a vital role in advancing accountability, revealing disinformation campaigns, and defining fundamental human rights related to climate change. While the road to legal victory is often long and filled with obstacles, the rising tide of climate litigation signifies a critical shift toward justice and accountability in the fight against Climate change.
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