A new report from the UNEP (UN Environment Program) has laid out a comprehensive review of ongoing climate litigation from around the world, finding that the number of active climate lawsuits has doubled since 2017. While 70% of these lawsuits are taking place in the United States, the number of global jurisdictions where climate lawsuits have occurred has nearly tripled in this time period.
As Vox reports, these lawsuits often feature groups who are left out of policymaking, such as indigenous people, young people and a high proportion of women. Many of these lawsuits are based on universal climate rights that were included by the UN Human Rights Council in 2021.
It remains to be seen whether these major climate lawsuits, such as those against large oil companies, will be successful in driving change. Despite Shell being ordered by a Dutch court to reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030, it has, in fact, increased its production and emissions since the ruling.
UN president António Guterres, issued a dire warning about the continuing pace of climate change as July 2023 became the hottest month in recorded history, beating out June 2023, which held the record for a mere 30 days.
The UN president declared that we had reached an age of “global boiling”, saying that the present reality of climate change was “terrifying”. After several failed attempts to muster consensus in international climate politics this year, many have set their sights on COP28 to present a breakthrough. In any case, as Guterres pointed out, “dramatic, immediate climate action” will be necessary soon for a decisive difference to be made.
The organisers of COP28 have announced that reducing food emissions will take a prominent place in the conference, inviting nations to sign a Food Systems declaration that commits them to transition to a more sustainable agricultural sector.
Helena Wright, Policy Director at the FAIRR initiative, a major investor engagement group representing $70 trillion in assets, noted investors had been calling for this since COP26, adding that “It is truly exciting to see our call to action being heeded and recognised as a necessary step in addressing food system challenges”.
Planet Tracker, a think-tank who published a roadmap for investors to reach a sustainable agricultural sector earlier this year, has argued that the food system is in dire need of reform, given it is responsible for 34% of all global greenhouse emissions. Investors will be a necessary part of this effort, the group argues, and could claim a total economic benefit of $1.5 trillion while cutting global emissions by 20% if they follow the recommendations of the roadmap.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak disappointed many this week by declaring his intention to “max out” UK fossil fuel reserves in the North sea, granting around 100 individual licences to oil companies seeking to exploit British territorial waters. The PM framed this effort as one that would guarantee the country’s energy independence and reduce its overall emissions by reducing the volume needed to be shipped from overseas.
Analysis has shown that these developments alone, if fully exploited, will release the same emissions as 14 million cars, or the entire carbon footprint of Denmark.
The reaction from many environmental advocates has been swift and fierce, with Business Green quoting one expert who compared it to “Pouring fuel on the fire while the world burns”.