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Sued over climate change? 19 July 2021

Could Your Company Get Sued Over Climate Change? (via Brink News)

By Liz Hypes

Legal activism against companies over their climate footprint is on the rise. The recent ruling against Shell in the Netherlands got a lot of attention. Most of the court activity has been directed at energy companies in the developed world, but according to Liz Hypes of Verisk Maplecroft, that is starting to change.

HYPES: 2017 was when we started to see a spike in these kinds of lawsuits, partly because of the Paris Agreement but also because of a shift in global public opinion around climate change as an issue and business’ responsibility in addressing the climate crisis. 

This shift in thinking is driving a lot of climate activism and playing into investors’ concerns. Just the idea that there’s a growing sense of materiality and liability in investments or in the type of products that you’re purchasing as an investor has given a lot of momentum to these lawsuits.

Climate Is No Longer a Top–Down Problem

Before, climate change was seen as a top–down problem, something that was a government issue that needed to be addressed in policy–making. But now there is this sense that the court of public opinion has significant power in changing how a company operates.

This has given rise to the idea that you as a consumer or investor can drive climate action instead of waiting on a government to do it.

BRINK: So far, has it been companies themselves or regulatory authorities who have been the main targets?

HYPES: Governments are still the main focus of most of these lawsuits. These human rights–based lawsuits focus on a government’s responsibility to protect the environment and to protect the rights of present and future generations. And a lot of these lawsuits are filed by youth plaintiffs, pushing a “duty of care” argument that is winning more and more in the courts. 

Read the full story here.