Davos 2023: Climate change litigation set to grow, says WEF panel

There have been nearly 2,000 ligation cases globally, with around a quarter of them in the past two years alone, the panel mentioned.

Shefali Rekhi

Shefali Rekhi

Asia News Network


(From left) ST editor Jaime Ho, who was the moderator, with panellists Ayisha Siddiqa, Sebastian Vos and Alice Garton at the WEF session on Jan 17, 2023. PHOTO: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

January 19, 2023

DAVOS – Alongside international concern over global warming, climate litigation is also flaring up around the world as the vulnerable move to secure their future.

This was the view taken on Tuesday by a panel on climate change litigation at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting, during a session moderated by The Straits Times editor Jaime Ho.

Panellists at the session – titled “See you in court! The rising tide of climate litigation” – felt that litigation had become an attractive strategy for a host of stakeholders wanting to move the needle on climate action.

This trend will continue to grow as a way of furthering or delaying effective action on climate change, they said.

There have been nearly 2,000 ligation cases globally, with around a quarter of them in the past two years alone, the panel mentioned.

Ms Alice Garton, director of global legal strategy at the Foundation for International Law for the Environment in the Netherlands, told the audience that these cases were predominantly in the United States, Britain, Europe and Australia, but that numbers were also increasing across Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean.

At the highest level, these cases are about projects creating undesirable climate change. The cases are brought by communities, and they win where science and law permit, she said.

Ms Garton noted that the cases are also meant to push for the creation of a framework for clean energy.

“Nearly 70 per cent of the cases are against projects and governments, while 30 per cent are against corporates,” she said.

“The current win rate for these cases is 50 per cent and, regrettably, the reality is that (the number of) cases will likely go up, not down.”

Ms Garton added that there is a huge range of claimants as “climate change is a pervasive issue and also a financial risk”.

Ms Ayisha Siddiqa, co-founder of Polluters Out, USA, which works to keep polluters out of indigenous lands around the world, said the key issue is that the international community has failed to keep up with commitments, and that mechanisms to ensure compliance and accountability by policymakers have yet to be put in place.

“Everyone, from civil society to young people and human rights groups, have said that in order to fulfil the compliance gaps, governments need to do better with their own commitments,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the inter-governmental process time is not binding, time and time again,” she noted.

The session was live-streamed, and it is believed that this is the first time discussions on the matter have taken place at the WEF.

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