Climate Change Reaches the Courts

May 14, 2003


An unprecedented alliance of 70 environmental organisations, lawyers, academics and individuals in 29 countries have today announced their backing for legal cases to combat climate change . Under the umbrella of the international and collaborative Climate Justice Programme, they want to see existing laws enforced to help present and future generations and hold the perpetrators of climate damage accountable and liable for the consequences of their actions. These cases have already started.

The prospect of climate change litigation has increased over recent months. And more cases can be expected as the cuts agreed in greenhouse gas emissions are not being met and are, even if met, seriously inadequate. The Climate Justice Programme, launched today, aims to encourage and support these cases.

For example, it is illegal under international law for one State to cause harm to another State. It is illegal under domestic law in many countries for polluters to cause nuisances to the public and to market defective products, and damages must be paid. International and domestic laws prohibit human rights violations. Domestic laws impose duties on directors of bodies, such as insurance companies or pension funds, to act in the best interests of shareholders who may suffer financial harm as a result of climate impacts.

Peter Roderick, co-Director of the CJP said:

"The world faces serious consequences if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut drastically, and citizens need to put as much pressure as possible on Governments and industry to bring this about. We cannot stand by and allow Governments and the fossil fuel lobby to screw up the planet."

Roda Verheyen, co-Director of the CJP said:

"The science of climate change has developed in legally significant ways. We now need to take that science to the courts so that greenhouse gas emissions cannot continue with impunity. We will try to enforce internationally and collaboratively the laws that exist now, to hold perpetrators accountable and liable for the consequences of their actions."

Jon Sohn, US Coordinator of the CJP said:

"The Bush Administration is irresponsibly increasing US dependence on fossil fuels, and now even censors its own environmental regulator from discussing climate change in key reports. Legal action is required to prompt positive action and provide a secure future for our children."

For more information see:

UK - Peter Roderick
Ph: + 44 20 7388 3141

Germany - Roda Verheyen
Ph: + 49 179 465 2979

US - Jon Sohn
Ph: + 1 202 783 7400 x231