Global trends in climate change litigation: 2019 snapshot

Setzer, Joana, and Rebecca Byrnes. “Global trends in climate change litigation: 2019 snapshot.” (2019).

Headline issues

• Climate change litigation continues to expand across jurisdictions as a tool to
strengthen climate action, though more evidence of its impact is needed.
• Climate change cases have been brought in at least 28 countries around the
world, and of the recorded cases more than three quarters have been filed in
the United States.
• Most defendants are governments but lawsuits are increasingly targeting the
highest greenhouse-gas-emitting companies.
• Climate change-related claims are also being pursued by investors, activist
shareholders, cities and states.
• Climate change litigation in low- and middle-income countries is growing in
quantity and importance.


Climate change litigation is increasingly viewed as a tool to influence policy
outcomes and corporate behaviour. Strategic cases are designed to press national
governments to be more ambitious on climate or to enforce existing legislation,
while cases against major emitters seek compensation for loss and damage.
Routine planning and regulatory cases are increasingly including climate change
arguments, exposing courts to climate science and climate-related arguments
even where incidental to the main claim.

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