Suing to Stop Climate Change (808P)

Policy Partner: Rand Corporation.

Over the past 10 years, climate change litigation has exploded globally. While there is some disagreement about what litigation should be understood as arising from or directed at “climate change,” the category encompasses large numbers of lawsuits challenging permitting of new fossil fuel projects, claims by indigenous communities and others about contemporary effects of climate change on their health and livelihoods, and claims on behalf of children about the future effects of climate change on their lives. Increasingly, plaintiffs claim government failures to address climate change constitute violations of international human rights. About three-quarters of identified cases have been brought in the United States, but a growing fraction have been litigated in other jurisdictions, including the global south. Claims have been brought against both governments and private corporations, seeking injunctive relief and damages.

Although much of this litigation is ongoing and plaintiffs have failed to prevail in many, there have also been high profile successes in which courts held governments or corporations liable and ordered them to adopt policies to achieve greater reductions in global warming. The RAND Institute for Civil Justice and the Feinberg Center for Catastrophic Risk at RAND are considering developing a new research agenda focusing on climate change litigation. To assist in their planning, this Practicum proposes to conduct a series of case studies of recent climate change lawsuits focusing on the procedural strategies that parties are using to achieve their goals, and with what success. Who are the plaintiffs that are bringing these suits? Are their efforts coordinated internationally? Who are the lawyers representing the claimants? Who is funding the litigation? What jurisdictions and tribunals, domestic and international, have proved most attractive from the plaintiffs’ perspective? What is the nature and extent of corporate, insurers’ and reinsurers’ liability? What real world impact are these lawsuits having on the environment? Law and graduate students with coursework, research, or practical experience related to environmental law and policy, global litigation, advanced civil procedure, or comparative law preferred.

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