Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

A Rights Turn in Climate Change Litigation?

  • Jacqueline Peel (a1) and Hari M. Osofsky (a2)

Abstract

In 2015, a Pakistani court in the case of Leghari v. Federation of Pakistan made history by accepting arguments that governmental failures to address climate change adequately violated petitioners’ rights. This case forms part of an emerging body of pending or decided climate change-related lawsuits that incorporate rights-based arguments in several countries, including the Netherlands, the Philippines, Austria, South Africa, and the United States (US). These decisions align with efforts to recognize the human rights dimensions of climate change, which received important endorsement in the Paris Agreement. The decisions also represent a significant milestone in climate change litigation. Although there have been hundreds of climate-based cases around the world over the past two decades – especially in the US – past and much of the ongoing litigation focuses primarily on statutory interpretation avenues. Previous efforts to bring human rights cases have also failed to achieve formal success. The new cases demonstrate an increasing trend for petitioners to employ rights claims in climate change lawsuits, as well as a growing receptivity of courts to this framing. This ‘rights turn’ could serve as a model or inspiration for rights-based litigation in other jurisdictions, especially those with similarly structured law and court access.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      A Rights Turn in Climate Change Litigation?
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      A Rights Turn in Climate Change Litigation?
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      A Rights Turn in Climate Change Litigation?
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Footnotes

Hide All

This contribution is part of a collection of articles growing out of the conference ‘A Rights-Based Approach to Climate Change’, held at QUT Law School, Brisbane (Australia), on 18–19 Feb. 2016.

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council, DP130100500, J. Peel & H. Osofsky, ‘Transition to a Clean Energy Future: The Role of Climate Change Litigation in Shaping our Regulatory Path’. The article was presented as a keynote address at a two-day conference on ‘A Rights-Based Approach to Climate Change’ held at QUT Law School, Brisbane (Australia), on 18–19 Feb. 2016. The authors would like to thank the conference participants and TEL reviewers for their feedback on earlier drafts of this article.

Footnotes

References

Hide All

1 In-person interview for Australian Research Council project, ‘Transition to a Clean Energy Future: The Role of Climate Change Litigation in Shaping Our Regulatory Path’, Participant 10, 14 Jan. 2013, San Francisco, CA (US).

2 Ashgar Leghari v. Federation of Pakistan (W.P. No. 25501/2015), Lahore High Court Green Bench, Orders of 4 Sept. and 14 Sept. 2015, available at: https://elaw.org/pk_Leghari (Leghari).

3 See, e.g., A. Neslen, ‘Dutch Government Ordered to Cut Emissions in Landmark Ruling’, The Guardian, 24 June 2015, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/24/dutch-government-ordered-cut-carbon-emissions-landmark-ruling; D. Anton, ‘A Dutch Blueprint for Climate Litigation’, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 July 2015, available at: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/a-dutch-blueprint-for-climate-litigation-20150702-gi3d5d.html; J. Schwartz, ‘Ruling Says Netherlands Must Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions’, The New York Times, 24 June 2015, available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/science/ruling-says-netherlands-must-reduce-greenhouse-gas-emissions.html?_r=0; ‘Netherlands Ordered to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions’, BBC News, 24 June 2015, available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-33253772.

4 Stichting Urgenda v. Government of the Netherlands (Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment), ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2015:7145, Rechtbank Den Haag, C/09/456689/HA ZA 13-1396 (Urgenda).

5 van Zeben, J., ‘Establishing a Governmental Duty of Care for Climate Change Mitigation: Will Urgenda Turn the Tide?’ (2015) 4(2) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 339357 ; Graaf, K. & Jans, J., ‘The Urgenda Decision: Netherlands Liable for Role in Causing Dangerous Global Climate Change’ (2015) 27(3) Journal of Environmental Law, pp. 517527 ; R. Cox, ‘A Climate Change Litigation Precedent: Urgenda Foundation v. The State of the Netherlands’, Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) Papers Series, No. 79, Nov. 2015, available at: https://www.cigionline.org/sites/default/files/cigi_paper_79.pdf;. Lin, J., ‘The First Successful Climate Change Negligence Case: A Comment on Urgenda Foundation v. The State of the Netherlands (Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment) ’ (2015) 5(1) Climate Law, pp. 6581 .

6 Urgenda, n. 4 above, para. 4.52.

7 See, e.g., Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, Inuit Petition Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Oppose Climate Change Caused by the United States of America, 7 Dec. 2005, available at: http://www.inuitcircumpolar.com/inuit-petition-inter-american-commission-on-human-rights-to-oppose-climate-change-caused-by-the-united-states-of-america.html (Inuit petition), discussed further in Section 2.2 below. See also the Nigerian case of Gbemre v. Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Ltd and Others (2005) AHRLR 151 (NgHC 2005), discussed in Section 4.3 below.

8 See Gerrard, M.B., ‘Climate Litigation Scores Successes in the Netherlands and Pakistan’ (2016) 47(5) Trends: American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources Newsletter , available at: http://www.americanbar.org/publications/trends/2015-2016/may-june-2016/climate_litigation_scores_successes.html.

9 Greenpeace, Petition Requesting for Investigation of the Responsibility of the Carbon Majors for Human Rights Violations or Threats of Violations resulting from the Impacts of Climate Change, available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/ph/press/releases/Worlds-largest-carbon-producers-ordered-to-respond-to-allegations-of-human-rights--abuses-from-climate-change/The-Climate-Change-and-Human-Rights-Petition. The petition is discussed further in Section 3.3 below.

10 Juliana v. United States, No. 6:15-cv-01517, (D.Or., 10 Nov. 2016) (Aiken, J.), 46 ELR 20175 (Juliana), discussed further in Section 3.3 below.

11 Third Runway at Vienna International Airport case, Case No. W109 2000179-1/291E, Federal Administrative Court, Austria, 2 Feb. 2017, discussed further in Section 3.3 below. An unofficial English translation of the decision by Columbia University student, P.B. Chawda, which links to the original decision (in German), is available at: http://wordpress2.ei.columbia.edu/climate-change-litigation/files/non-us-case-documents/2017/20170317_W109-2000179-1291E_decision.pdf.

12 Earthlife Africa Johannesburg v. Minister for Environmental Affairs & Others, Case No. 65662/16, Judgment of High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division, Pretoria (South Africa), 8 Mar. 2017, available at: http://cer.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Judgment-Earthlife-Thabametsi-Final-06-03-2017.pdf (Earthlife Africa Johannesburg), discussed further in Section 3.3 below.

13 Markell, D. & Ruhl, J.B., ‘An Empirical Assessment of Climate Change in the Courts: A New Jurisprudence or Business as Usual’ (2012) 64(1) Florida Law Review, pp. 1586 ; Peel, J. & Osofsky, H.M., Climate Change Litigation: Regulatory Pathways to Cleaner Energy (Cambridge University Press, 2015); M. Nachmany et al., ‘Global Trends in Climate Change Legislation and Litigation, 2017 Update’, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, May 2017, pp. 13–8 (noting that the US has the most cases at around 600 decisions, followed by Australia with over 50 climate change-related cases).

14 549 U.S. 497 (2007).

15 42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq. (1970).

16 For discussion of these ‘traditional’ or ‘first generation’ climate change cases see Markell & Ruhl, n. 13 above, and Peel & Osofsky, n. 13 above; see also Fisher, E., ‘Climate Change Litigation, Obsession and Expertise: Reflecting on the Scholarly Response to Massachusetts v. EPA ’ (2013) 35(3) Law and Policy, pp. 236-260 ; Vanhala, L., ‘The Comparative Politics of Courts and Climate Change’ (2013) 22(3) Environmental Politics, pp. 447474 ; Preston, B.J., ‘Climate Change Litigation (Part 2)’ (2011) 5(2) Carbon and Climate Law Review, pp. 244263 ; Preston, B.J., ‘Climate Change Litigation (Part 1) (2011) 5(1) Carbon and Climate Law Review, pp. 314 ; M. Gerrard et al., ‘Climate Change Litigation in the U.S.’, Arnold & Porter LLP., available at: http://www.climatecasechart.com. Rights-based claims are one example of litigants pursuing new directions in this ‘next generation’ of climate change litigation: see Peel, J., Osofsky, H.M. & Foerster, A., ‘Shaping the Next Generation of Climate Change Litigation in Australia’ (2017) 41(2) Melbourne University Law Review (forthcoming). For other examples see D. Estrin, ‘Limiting Dangerous Climate Change: The Critical Role of Citizen Suits and Domestic Courts – Despite the Paris Agreement’, CIGI Papers Series, Paper No. 101, 11 May 2016, available at: https://www.cigionline.org/publications/limiting-dangerous-climate-change-critical-role-citizen-suits-and-domestic-courts; and M. Taws, ‘Atmospheric Trust Litigation: A Potential Tool in the Search for Climate Justice in the United States’, CIGI, Interview with Randall Abate, 20 July 2016, available at: https://www.cigionline.org/articles/atmospheric-trust-litigation-potential-tool-search-climate-justice-united-states.

17 Paris (France), 12 Dec. 2015, in force 4 Nov. 2016 available at: http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php (Paris Agreement).

18 Knox, J.H., ‘Climate Change and Human Rights Law’ (2009) 50(1) Virginia Journal of International Law, pp. 163218 , at 166. See also Sinden, A., ‘An Emerging Human Right to Security from Climate Change: The Case Against Gas Flaring in Nigeria’, in W.C.G. Burns & H.M. Osofsky (eds), Adjudicating Climate Change: State, National, and International Approaches (Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 173192 .

19 Neuman, G.L., ‘Human Rights and Constitutional Rights: Harmony and Dissonance’ (2003) 55 Stanford Law Review, pp. 18631900 .

20 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

21 In the US, major obstacles exist to human rights-based claims against governments for climate-related injury, including questions of standing (showing particularized injury and causation), separation of powers (especially the application of the political question doctrine), and sovereign immunity: N. Perumal & J. Wentz, ‘Lawsuit Alleges that U.S. Government Violated Constitutional Rights of America’s Youth by Promoting the Development and Use of Fossil Fuels’, Climate Law Blog, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia University, 25 Aug. 2015, available at: http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/climatechange/2015/08/25/lawsuit-alleges-that-u-s-government-violated-constitutional-rights-of-americas-youth-by-promoting-the-development-and-use-of-fossil-fuels. For a discussion of obstacles in Australia – another country with a substantial ‘traditional’ climate change jurisprudence – see Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, ‘Human Rights and Climate Change Background Paper’, 2008, available at: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/papers-human-rights-and-climate-change-background-paper#2; and Cordes-Holland, O., ‘The Sinking of the Strait: The Implications of Climate Change for Torres Strait Islanders’ Human Rights Protected by the ICCPR’ (2008) 9(2) Melbourne Journal of International Law, pp. 405438 . Full analysis of the obstacles to human rights claims in these and other specific jurisdictions lies beyond the scope of this article.

22 Inuit petition, n. 7 above.

24 Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, ‘The Human Cost of Natural Disasters 2015: A Global Perspective’, EM-DAT, 2015, available at: http://emdat.be/human_cost_natdis. On the relationship between elevated GHG emissions, climate change and an increased frequency or severity of extreme weather, see IPCC, Special Report: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

25 See, e.g., Re, Munich, Severe Weather in North America: Perils, Risks, Insurance (Munich Re, 2012).

26 Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, n. 24 above, p. 7.

27 IPCC, n. 24 above; see also Fischer, E.M. & Knutti, R., ‘Anthropogenic Contribution to Global Occurrence of Heavy-Precipitation and High-Temperature Extremes’ (2015) 5 Nature Climate Change, pp. 560564 , available at: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v5/n6/abs/nclimate2617.html.

28 Hall, M.J. & Weiss, D.C., ‘Avoiding Adaptation Apartheid: Climate Change Adaptation and Human Rights Law’ (2012) 37(2) Yale Journal of International Law, pp. 309366 , at 310; Berger, M. & Wentz, J., Climate Change and Human Rights (UN Environment Programme (UNEP), 2015), p. 11 . However, discussion of human rights–climate change linkages has its roots in a well-established body of literature on human rights and the environment, including seminal texts such as Boyle, A.E. & Anderson, M.R. (eds), Human Rights Approaches to Environmental Protection (Oxford University Press, 1998), and international efforts to develop a self-standing human right to a clean, healthy environment: Berger & Wentz, ibid, p. 1; see also Atapattu, S., Human Rights Approaches to Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities (Routledge, 2016), particularly Ch. 3.

29 For an account of the efforts to link climate change and human rights at the UN, including the role of the Inuit petition and activism efforts by the Maldives which culminated in the Malé Declaration on the Human Dimension of Global Climate Change (Malé (Republic of Maldives), 14 Nov. 2007, available at: http://www.ciel.org/Publications/Male_Declaration_Nov07.pdf), see Knox, J.H., ‘Linking Human Rights and Climate Change at the United Nations’ (2009) 33(2) Harvard Environmental Law Review, pp. 477498 .

30 UN HRC Resolution A/HRC/7/78, 14 July 2008, on the Report of the Human Rights Council on its Seventh Session, p. 65, Preamble.

31 OHCHR, Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Relationship between Climate Change and Human Rights, UN Doc. A/HRC/10/61, 15 Jan. 2009 (OHCHR Report).

32 New York, NY (US), 16 Dec. 1966, in force 23 Mar. 1976, available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx.

33 New York, NY (US), 16 Dec. 1966, in force 3 Jan. 1976, available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx.

34 OHCHR Report, n. 31 above, para. 18. In the field of international environmental law, Principle 1 of the Declaration of the UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Declaration) (UN Doc. A/Conf.48/14/Rev. 1(1973), 16 Jun. 1972, available at: http://www.unep.org/documents.multilingual/default.asp?documentid=97&articleid=1503) also reflects the interdependence of human rights and environmental quality.

35 E.g., ICCPR, n. 32 above, Art. 6.

36 E.g., ICESCR, n. 33 above, Art. 12.

37 E.g., ibid., Art. 11.

38 E.g., ibid., Arts 11 and 12.

39 E.g., ibid., Art. 11.

40 E.g., ICCPR, n. 32 above, Art. 1; ICESCR, n. 33 above, Art 1.

41 ‘Report of the Independent Expert on the Issue of Human Rights Obligations relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment, J.H. Knox, Mapping Report’, UN Doc. A/HRC/25/53, 30 Dec. 2013, paras 29–43.

42 OHCHR Report, n. 31 above, paras 20–41.

43 Ibid., paras 61–4.

44 Barnett, J. & Adger, N., ‘Climate Change, Human Security and Violent Conflict’ (2007) 26(6) Political Geography, pp. 639655 .

45 OHCHR Report, n. 31 above, para. 42.

46 UN HRC Res. 29, ‘Human Rights and Climate Change’, UN Doc. A/HRC/29/L.21, 30 June 2015, para 1.

47 UNFCCC Secretariat, Decision 1/CP.16, ‘The Cancún Agreements: Outcome of the Work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention’, UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1, 15 Mar. 2011, Preamble.

48 Ibid., para. 2(b).

49 Ibid., para. 25.

50 Barros, V.R. & Field, C.B. (eds), Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Vol. II: Regional Aspects, Working Group II Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Annex II, p. 1758. The IPCC report goes on to clarify that in human systems ‘adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects’.

51 UNEP, ‘Loss and Damage: When Adaptation Is Not Enough’, Apr. 2014, available at: http://na.unep.net/geas/getUNEPPageWithArticleIDScript.php?article_id=111.

52 Barros & Field, n. 50 above, define ‘adaptive capacity’ as ‘[t]he ability of systems, institutions, humans, and other organisms to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to respond to consequences’. Low adaptive capacity – for example, as a result of a lack of resources or other factors of disadvantage – increases vulnerability to climate change impacts: ibid., p. 902.

53 For an apt illustration see UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), ‘Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015–2030’, UNGA Res. 69/283, 23 June 2015, para. 19(c) (guiding principle), available at: http://www.unisdr.org/we/coordinate/sendai-framework.

54 See, e.g., OHCHR, ‘Human Rights Must Be Part of any Climate Change Agreement in Paris’, 27 Nov. 2015, available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/COP21.aspx; OHCHR, ‘COP21 – ‘“States’ Human Rights Obligations Encompass Climate Change” – UN Expert’, 3 Dec. 2015, available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16836&LangID=E.

55 Paris Agreement, n. 17 above, Preamble, recital 11. See also Mayer, B., ‘Human Rights in the Paris Agreement’ (2016) 6(1–2) Climate Law, pp. 109117 .

56 Ibid., Arts 7 and 8.

57 Ibid., Art. 2.

58 ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Issue of Human Rights Obligations relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/52, 1 Feb. 2016, para. 22.

59 Hall & Weiss, n. 28 above, p. 311.

60 Ibid.

61 Knox, n. 18 above, p. 165.

62 This time-scale problem also raises questions about the extent to which current generations can seek remedies for human rights violations that may be visited on future generations as a result of climate change.

63 OHCHR Report, n. 31 above, para. 70. See also McInerney-Lankford, S., ‘Climate Change and Human Rights: An Introduction to Legal Issues’ (2009) 33(2) Harvard Environmental Law Review, pp. 431437 , at 433.

64 See Inuit petition, n. 7 above. For discussion see Osofsky, H.M., ‘Complexities of Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples through International Law Petitions: A Case Study of the Inuit Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’, in R.S. Abate & E.A. Kronk, Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies (Edward Elgar, 2013), pp. 313338 .

65 Bogotá (Colombia), Apr. 1948, OAS Res. XXX, reprinted in Basic Documents Pertaining to Human Rights in the Inter-American System, OAS/Ser.L/V/I.4 Rev. 9 (2003), available at: http://www.cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic2.american%20declaration.htm.

66 The US is not a party to the American Convention on Human Rights (San José (Costa Rica), 22 Nov. 1969, in force 18 July 1978, available at: http://www.cidh.org/basicos/English/Basic3.American%20Convention.htm) so the Inuit petition had to rely on rights articulated in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, ibid.

67 Inuit petition, n. 7 above, Part IV.B.

68 Ibid., Part IV.D.

69 Kyoto (Japan), 11 Dec. 1997, in force 16 Feb. 2005, available at: http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php.

70 Inuit petition, n. 7 above, Part V.D.

71 Ibid., pp. 6–7.

72 Ibid., Part IX. A range of other proactive measures were also sought, such as for the US to take into account the effects of GHG emissions on the Inuit and Arctic in evaluating and before approving major government actions; to implement a plan for protecting Inuit culture and resources and mitigating harm caused by US GHG emissions; and to implement a plan for adaptation assistance.

73 Quoted in Osofsky, H.M., ‘The Inuit Petition as a Bridge? Beyond Dialectics of Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights’ (2007) 31(2) American Indian Law Review, pp. 675697 , at 676, citing a letter from A.E. Dulitzky, Assistant Executive Secretary, Organization of American States, to P. Crowley, Legal Representative, 16 Nov. 2006.

74 Limon, M., ‘Human Rights and Climate Change: Constructing a Case for Political Action’ (2009) 33(2) Harvard Environmental Law Review, pp. 439476 .

75 See, e.g., R. Black, ‘Inuit Sue US Over Climate Policy’, BBC News, 8 Dec. 2005, available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4511556.stm; A.C. Revkin, ‘Inuit Climate Change Petition Rejected’, The New York Times, 16 Dec. 2006, available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/16/world/americas/16briefs-inuitcomplaint.html?_r=0.

76 See, e.g., Rajamani, L., ‘The Increasing Currency and Relevance of Rights-Based Perspectives in the International Negotiations on Climate Change’ (2010) 22(3) Journal of Environmental Law, pp. 391429 ; Atapattu, n. 28 above, pp. 266–90; Jaimes, V., ‘Climate Change and Human Rights Litigation in Europe and the Americas’ (2015) 5(1) Seattle Journal of Environmental Law, pp. 165198 .

77 N. 2 above.

78 The Urgenda case, n. 4 above, has been discussed in detail in the literature (see, e.g., references at n. 5 above). As a consequence, this analysis concentrates primarily on its relevance for human rights and treats other aspects only briefly.

79 Urgenda, n. 4 above, paras 4.84–4.86.

80 Urgenda, ‘Dutch Government to Appeal in Groundbreaking Climate Case’, 1 Sept. 2015, available at: http://www.urgenda.nl/en/climate-case. The government’s decision to appeal was made despite calls from the Dutch Parliament and international climate experts to let the lower court decision stand.

81 Government of the Netherlands, ‘Cabinet Begins Implementation of Urgenda Ruling but Will File Appeal’, Press Release, 1 Sept. 2015, available at: https://www.government.nl/latest/news/2015/09/01/cabinet-begins-implementation-of-urgenda-ruling-but-will-file-appeal.

82 Urgenda is a NGO which provides a ‘platform’ for development of plans and measures to prevent climate change; see Urgenda website available at: http://www.urgenda.nl/en.

83 Rome (Italy), 4 Nov. 1950, in force 3 Sept. 1953 (ECHR), available at http://www.echr.coe.int/pages/home.aspx?p=basictexts.

84 ECtHR, Manual on Human Rights and the Environment, 2nd edn (Council of Europe Publishing, 2012), available at: http://www.echr.coe.int/LibraryDocs/DH_DEV_Manual_Environment_Eng.pdf. See also Verschuuren, J., ‘Contribution of the Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights to Sustainable Development in Europe’, in W. Scholtz & J. Verschuuren (eds), Regional Environmental Law: Transregional Comparative Lessons in Pursuit of Sustainable Development (Edward Elgar, 2015), pp. 363385 .

85 ECtHR, ibid., pp. 19 and 45–51.

86 Ibid., pp. 51–54.

87 Urgenda, n. 4 above, para. 4.45.

88 Ibid., para. 4.109.

89 Ibid., paras 4.43 and 4.46.

90 Ibid., para. 4.46.

91 Ibid., para. 4.52.

92 Ibid.

93 Ibid., para. 4.18.

94 Ibid., para. 4.55.

95 Ibid., para. 4.65.

96 Ibid., para. 4.63.

97 Ibid., para. 4.74.

98 Ibid., para. 4.75.

99 For some of the limited reporting of the case see, e.g., J. Wentz, ‘Lahore High Court Orders Pakistan to Act on Climate Change’, 26 Sept. 2015, Climate Law Blog, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, available at: http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/climatechange/2015/09/26/lahore-high-court-orders-pakistan-to-act-on-climate-change; M. Mehra, ‘Pakistan Ordered to Enforce Climate Law by Lahore Court’, 20 Sept. 2015, available at: http://www.climatechangenews.com/2015/09/20/pakistan-ordered-to-enforce-climate-law-by-lahore-court; A. Gill, ‘Farmer Sues Pakistan’s Government to Demand Action on Climate Change’, Reuters, 13 Nov. 2015, available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/pakistan-climatechange-lawsuit-idUSL8N1383YJ20151113. See also Gerrard, n. 8 above.

100 Judicial activism has a considerable history in Pakistan and other South Asian nations, such as India and Bangladesh, but is regarded as a mixed blessing given the dangers of overstepping boundaries between the judiciary and the executive. See further M. Lau, ‘Islam and Judicial Activism: Public Interest Litigation and Environmental Protection in Pakistan’, in Boyle, A. & Anderson, M. (eds), Human Rights Approaches to Environmental Protection (Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 285302 . For a recent analysis of socio-legal scholarship on South Asian judicial activism, particularly in the area of Muslim family law, see Holden, L. (ed.), Legal Pluralism and Governance in South Asia and Diasporas (Routledge, 2015).

101 Leghari, n. 2 above, Order of 4 Sept. 2015, para. 1.

102 See A.R. Alam (Advocate, Supreme Court of Pakistan), ‘Public Interest Litigation and the Role of the Judiciary’, available at: http://www.supremecourt.gov.pk/ijc/Articles/17/2.pdf; F. Hussain, ‘Public Interest Litigation’, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Working Paper Series #5, 1993, available at: https://www.sdpi.org/publications/files/W5-Public%20Interest%20Litigation.pdf.

103 For a discussion of the evolution of fundamental rights and public interest litigation in Pakistan, including the text of the fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution in an Appendix, see M.A. Munir, ‘Public Interest Litigation in Supreme Court of Pakistan’, 4 Aug. 2007, available at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1984583.

104 Government of Pakistan, National Climate Change Policy, 12 Sept. 2012, available at: http://www.pk.undp.org/content/pakistan/en/home/library/hiv_aids/publication_1.html (National Climate Change Policy).

105 Government of Pakistan, Climate Change Division, Framework for Implementation of Climate Change Policy (2014–2030), Nov. 2013, available at: http://www.pk.undp.org/content/dam/pakistan/docs/Environment%20&%20Climate%20Change/Framework%20for%20Implementation%20of%20CC%20Policy.pdf (Framework for Implementation).

106 National Climate Change Policy, n. 104 above, Preface.

107 Framework for Implementation, n. 105 above, Schedule.

108 Leghari, n. 2 above, Order of 4 Sept. 2015, para. 3.

109 Ibid., para. 5.

110 Ibid., paras 6 and 8.

111 Ibid., para. 8.

112 Ibid., para. 7.

113 Ibid.

114 Ibid.

115 See Rajamani, L. & Ghosh, S., ‘India’, in R. Lord et al. (eds), Climate Change Liability: Transnational Law and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 139177 , at 147–56 (focusing on the situation in India, which has influenced Pakistani traditions).

116 On judicial remedies entailing court supervision of executive branch implementation as a form of judicial policy making, argued to be a standard and legitimate function of courts, see Feeley, M. & Rubin, E.L., Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State (Cambridge University Press, 1998); Rubin, E.L. & Feeley, M., ‘Judicial Policy Making and Litigation against the Government’ (2003) 5(3) University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, pp. 617664 .

117 Leghari, n. 2 above, Order of 4 Sept. 2015, para. 7.

118 Ibid., para. 8.

119 Ibid., para. 8iii.

120 Leghari, n. 2 above, Order of 14 Sept. 2015, para. 3.

121 Ibid., para. 11; see also World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Pakistan and LUMS, ‘Climate Change Adaptation in the Indus Ecoregion: A Micro-Econometric Study of the Determinants, Impact and Cost Effectiveness of Adaptation Strategies’, 15 Apr. 2015, available at: http://www.wwfpak.org/newsroom/150415_lums.php#sthash.yIlmCCRV.dpuf.

122 Leghari, n. 2 above, Order of 14 Sept. 2015, para. 11. See also A. Riaz, ‘LHC Forms Climate Change Commission’, The News, 17 Sept. 2015, available at: https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/62925-lhc-forms-climate-change-commission.

123 A.R. Alam, ‘Pakistan Court Orders Government to Enforce Climate Law’, thethirdpole.net, 25 Sept. 2015, available at: https://www.thethirdpole.net/2015/09/24/pakistan-court-orders-government-to-enforce-climate-law.

124 Wentz, n. 21 above; see also M.O. Berger, ‘Teens Challenge US Government for Not Protecting Them from Climate Change’, The Guardian, 10 Mar. 2016, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/09/climate-change-teens-sue-us-government-failing-protect.

125 N. 10 above.

126 The public trust doctrine treats certain natural resources as owned by the government, which has trust obligations to the public to maintain them for public use and benefit. The specific manifestations of this doctrine in the US vary from state to state, based on their common law traditions, and what states also have incorporated into their constitutional or statutory law. For full details of US public trust climate lawsuits see M. Gerrard et al., n. 16 above, ‘U.S. Climate Change Litigation Chart’. See also Wood, M.C., ‘Atmospheric Trust Litigation Across the World’, in K. Coghill, C. Sampford & T. Smith (eds), Fiduciary Duty and the Atmospheric Trust (Routledge, 2012), pp. 99164 .

127 Our Children’s Trust, ‘Mission Statement’, available at: https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/mission-statement.

128 US Constitution, Amendment V.

129 For a review of the potential impact of this case, see Blumm, M. & Wood, M., ‘No Ordinary Lawsuit: Climate Change, Due Process, and the Public Trust Doctrine’ (2017) 67(1) American University Law Review (forthcoming), available at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2954661.

130 Juliana, n. 10 above, p. 32, quoting Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 211 (1888) and referring also to the Philippines case of Minors Oposa v. Secretary of the Department of Environmental & Natural Resources, G.R. No. 101083, 33 ILM 173, at 187–8 (S.C., 30 July 1993).

131 Juliana, n. 10, p. 33.

133 Ibid., p. 8.

134 Ibid., p. 11.

135 See Our Children’s Trust, Media Release, ‘Judge Coffin to Trump Administration: Appeal Now “Would Put Cart Before the Horse”’, 1 May 2017, available at: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/571d109b04426270152febe0/t/5907a22cd2b8574b00089352/1493672493237/17.05.01+Coffin%27s+Order+Recommending+Denial+of+Interlocutory+Appeal+PR.pdf. In a subsequent decision on 28 June 2017, Judge Coffin set a trial date of 8 Feb. 2018. However, in decisions issued on 25 and 28 July 2017, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals – responding to the Trump administration’s petition for a writ of mandamus seeking review of Judge Aiken’s Nov. 2016 decision – issued a temporary stay on the proceedings and ordered the plaintiffs to respond within 30 days to the petition. For details of the procedural developments in the case see Our Children’s Trust, ‘Details of Proceedings’, available at: https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/federal-proceedings.

136 Greenpeace, n. 9 above.

137 Heede, R., ‘Tracing Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide and Methane Emissions to Fossil Fuel and Cement Producers, 1854–2010’ (2014) 122(1) Climatic Change, pp. 229241 .

138 Greenpeace, n. 9 above, p. 5.

139 UN OHCHR, ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’, 2011, available at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf.

140 Greenpeace, n. 9 above, p. 28.

141 For the companies’ responses to this request see Greenpeace Philippines, ‘The Climate Change and Human Rights Petition’, 28 July 2016, available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/ph/press/releases/Worlds-largest-carbon-producers-ordered-to-respond-to-allegations-of-human-rights--abuses-from-climate-change/The-Climate-Change-and-Human-Rights-Petition.

142 P. Manongdo, ‘Landmark Human Rights Case Against World’s Biggest Fossil Fuel Firms Pushes On’, Eco-Business, 13 Dec. 2016, available at: http://www.eco-business.com/news/landmark-human-rights-case-against-worlds-biggest-fossil-fuel-firms-pushes-on.

143 Third Runway at Vienna International Airport, n. 11 above.

144 [2012] OJ C 326/391, 26 Oct. 2012, available at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/charter/pdf/text_en.pdf.

145 Austrian Federal Constitution, BGBl. I No. 111/2013, Art. 73, ss. 1–3.

146 Lower Austria LV 1979, LGBl. 0001-0 idF. LGBl. 0001-21, Art. 4(2) and (3).

147 This analysis is derived from the unofficial translation of the judgment, n. 11 above.

148 Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, n. 12 above.

149 The statutory provision at issue in the case was s. 240 of the National Environmental Management Act, which sets out relevant factors for consideration before grant of an environmental authorization.

150 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, s. 24.

151 Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, n. 12 above, para. 81, referring to s. 39(2) of the Constitution.

152 Ibid., para. 82.

153 Ibid., para. 91.

154 J. Queally, ‘“Lawsuit Out of Love” as Unprecedented Legal Action Accuses Dutch Government of Failing on Climate’, Common Dreams, 14 Apr. 2015, available at: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/04/14/lawsuit-out-love-unprecedented-legal-action-accuses-dutch-government-failing-climate.

155 Nachmany et al. (n. 13 above, p. 13) record 850 cases across 26 jurisdictions with 600 of those cases in the US; 78% of cases involved administrative challenges to projects such as coal-fired power stations (ibid., pp. 14–5).

156 Skype interview for Australian Research Council project, ‘Transition to a Clean Energy Future: The Role of Climate Change Litigation in Shaping our Regulatory Path’, Participant 20, 11 Apr. 2013. See also Durbach, A. et al., ‘Public Interest Litigation: Making the Case in Australia’ (2013) 38(4) Alternative Law Journal, pp. 219223 .

157 The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, ‘Statement by President Trump on the Paris Climate Accord’, 1 June 2017, available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/06/01/statement-president-trump-paris-climate-accord.

158 See Boyd, D.R., The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment (UBC Press, 2012); and May, J.R. & Daly, E., ‘Constitutional Environmental Rights Worldwide’, in J.R. May (ed.), Principles of Constitutional Environmental Law (ABA Book Publishing, 2011), pp. 329357 .

159 Constitutional or civil rights protection often draws on formulations of human rights in international law. The principal difference between constitutional/civil rights and human rights is that the latter are generally held to be fundamental rights intrinsic to human existence whereas the former are rights that are granted to citizens of states – or, as civil rights activist Malcolm X put it: ‘Civil rights means you’re asking Uncle Sam to treat you right. Human rights are something you were born with. Human rights are your God-given rights. Human rights are the rights that are recognized by all nations of this earth’: Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet, Social Justice Speeches, 3 Apr. 1964, available at: http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/speeches/malcolm_x_ballot.html.

160 Examples include the Constitution of South Africa, s. 24; Constitution of Kenya, Ch. IV, Pt II, Art. 42; Constitucion de law Republica del Ecuador 2008, Title II, Ch. II, s. II, Arts 14 and 15; and Constitution of the Tunisian Republic (2014), Title II, Art. 45. For an excellent overview of these provisions, see O’Gorman, R., ‘Environmental Constitutionalism: A Comparative Study’ (2017) 6(3) Transnational Environmental Law, p. 435462 . Envirorightsmap.org also provides a useful resource mapping countries with environmental rights protection, available at: http://envirorightsmap.org.

161 Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, ‘Holding Corporations Accountable for Damaging the Climate’, 2014, available at: https://www.elaw.org/system/files/elaw.climate.litigation.report.pdf. The report focuses on good country candidates for rights-based litigation against corporate actors for climate harm. The scope for claims against states is likely to be broader.

162 On India see Rajamani & Ghosh, n. 115 above. See also Ristroph, E.B., ‘The Role of Philippine Courts in Establishing the Environmental Rule of Law’ (2012) 42(9) Environmental Law Reporter, pp. 1086610887 .

163 It is possible that the utility of bringing an adaptation-focused rights claim in any particular case could depend upon the targeted government being one with some capacity to devote resources to climate adaptation and resilience building, and where the adaptation measures have the potential to ameliorate the kinds of climate risk faced by the population.

164 See Lambrecht, J. & Ituarte-Lima, C., ‘Legal Innovation in National Courts for Planetary Challenges: Urgenda v State of the Netherlands’ (2016) 18(1) Environmental Law Review, pp. 5764 ; Cox, R., ‘A Climate Change Litigation Precedent: Urgenda Foundation v The State of the Netherlands’ (2016) 34(2) Journal of Energy and Natural Resources Law, pp. 143163 ; Roy, S. & Woerdman, E., ‘Situating Urgenda v The Netherlands within Comparative Climate Change Litigation’ (2016) 34(2) Journal of Energy and Natural Resources Law, pp. 165189 ; Loth, M., ‘Climate Change Liability After All: A Dutch Landmark Case’ (2016) 21(1) Tilburg Law Review, pp. 530 ; Huang, J. & Tigre, M.A., ‘Trends in Climate Justice Litigation: The Dutch Case and Global Repercussions’, in R.S. Abate (ed.), Climate Justice: Case Studies in Global and Regional Governance Challenges (ELI Press, 2016), pp. 571596 .

165 Cox, R., Revolution Justified (Revolutie Met Recht ) (Stichting Planet Prosperity, 2012). For further detail see the author’s website, available at: http://www.revolutionjustified.org.

166 Berger & Wentz, n. 28 above, p. 23. For details of the Belgian action (in French) see http://www.klimaatzaak.eu/fr/le-proces/#klimaatzaak. Other actions are foreshadowed in Norway and Spain: ‘Hague Climate Change Verdict: “Not Just a Legal Process but a Process of Hope”’, Interview with M. Minnesma, Urgenda Director, The Guardian, 26 Jun. 2015, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/jun/25/hague-climate-change-verdict-marjan-minnesma.

167 Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Seeking Relief from Violations of the Rights of Arctic Athabaskan Peoples resulting from Rapid Arctic Warming and Melting Caused by Emissions of Black Carbon by Canada, 23 Apr. 2013, available at: http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/AAC_PETITION_13-04-23a.pdf.

168 Jaimes, V., ‘The Arctic Athabaskan Petition: Where Accelerated Global Warming Meets Human Rights’ (2015) 45(2) California Western International Law Journal, pp. 213260 , at 259.

169 ECtHR, Kyrtatos v. Greece, 22 May 2003, App. No. 41666/98, para. 52.

170 ECHR, n. 83 above, Arts 2 and 8.

171 See further Jaimes, n. 76 above, pp. 188–9.

172 ECtHR, Budayeva v. Russia, App. No. 15339/02 (2008).

173 Jaimes, n. 76 above; see also Chapman, M., ‘Climate Change and the Regional Human Rights Systems’ (2010) (Spring Issue), Sustainable Development Law & Policy, pp. 3738 , 60–1, available at: http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=sdlp.

174 Organization of American States (OAS), Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Protocol of San Salvador), 17 Nov. 1988, in force 16 Nov. 1999, available at: http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/treaties/a-52.html.

175 Organization of African Unity (OAU), African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 27 Jun. 1981, in force 21 Oct. 1986, CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, Art. 24, available at: http://www.achpr.org/instruments/achpr/#a24.

176 Gbemre, n. 7 above.

177 See further Sinden, n. 18 above.

178 See Osofsky, H.M., ‘Climate Change and Environmental Justice: Reflections on Litigation over Oil Extraction and Rights Violations in Nigeria’ (2010) 1(2) Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, pp. 189210 .

179 OAS, ‘Signatories and Ratifications’, available at: http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/sigs/a-52.html.

180 See further the Court’s website, available at: http://en.african-court.org.

181 For details see UNEP, Compendium on Human Rights and the Environment: Selected International Legal Materials and Cases (UNEP, 2014), pp. 4956 , available at: http://www.unep.org/environmentalgovernance/Portals/8/publications/UNEP-compendium-human-rights-2014.pdf.

182 Greenpeace, n. 9 above.

183 Boyd, n. 158 above, p. 51 (noting that obstacles to rights claims are particularly pronounced in common law jurisdictions such as the US, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom). While the US Federal Constitution lacks a self-standing environmental right, some state constitutions in the US do have such rights: Tuholske, J.R., ‘U.S. State Constitutions and Environmental Protection: Diamonds in the Rough’ (2015) 21 Widener Law Review, pp. 239255 .

184 Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations, 1 Mar. 2015, available at: http://globaljustice.macmillan.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/OsloPrinciples.pdf.

185 The authors are members of this working group. For further details see Leslie, N., ‘IBA Takes Leading Role in Increasing Awareness of Climate Change Justice’ (2016) 34(1) Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law, pp. 715 , at 9–10.

186 Peel and Osofsky, n. 13 above, pp. 47–51.

187 There is a robust literature on the topic of litigation as regulation, which extends beyond the scope of this article. In addition to Peel and Osofsky, n. 13 above, see Viscusi, W.K. (ed.), Regulation through Litigation (Brookings Institute, 2002); Lytton, T.D., ‘Using Tort Litigation to Enhance Regulatory Policymaking: Evaluating Climate Change Litigation in Light of Lessons from Gun Industry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuits’ (2008) 86(7) Texas Law Review, pp. 18371876 .

This contribution is part of a collection of articles growing out of the conference ‘A Rights-Based Approach to Climate Change’, held at QUT Law School, Brisbane (Australia), on 18–19 Feb. 2016.

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council, DP130100500, J. Peel & H. Osofsky, ‘Transition to a Clean Energy Future: The Role of Climate Change Litigation in Shaping our Regulatory Path’. The article was presented as a keynote address at a two-day conference on ‘A Rights-Based Approach to Climate Change’ held at QUT Law School, Brisbane (Australia), on 18–19 Feb. 2016. The authors would like to thank the conference participants and TEL reviewers for their feedback on earlier drafts of this article.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Transnational Environmental Law
  • ISSN: 2047-1025
  • EISSN: 2047-1033
  • URL: /core/journals/transnational-environmental-law
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed