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Key climate litigation cases shaping the future

September 1, 2023

The Global Climate Litigation Report: 2023 Status Review, based on a review of cases focused on climate change law, policy or science, demonstrated how courts are finding strong human rights linkages to climate change. 

According to the United Nations, this is leading to greater protections for the most vulnerable groups in society, as well as increased accountability, transparency and justice, compelling governments and corporations to pursue more ambitious climate change mitigation and adaptation goals. 

UNEP looked at the following exponential cases as good examples for the world:


  • The UN Human Rights Committee concluded for the first time that a country has violated international human rights law through climate policy and climate inaction, finding Australia’s government is in violation of its human rights obligations to Torres Strait Islanders; 


  • Brazil’s Supreme Court held that the Paris Agreement is a human rights treaty, which enjoys “supranational” status;  


  • A Dutch court ordered oil and gas company Shell to comply with the Paris Agreement and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent from 2019 levels by 2030. This was the first time a court found a private company to have a duty under the Paris Agreement;  


  • Germany’s court struck down parts of the Federal Climate Protection Act as incompatible with the rights to life and health;  


  • A court in Paris held that France’s climate inaction and failure to meet its carbon budget goals have caused climate-related ecological damages;


  • A United Kingdom court found that the government had failed to comply with its legal duties under its Climate Change Act 2008 when approving its net-zero strategy;  


  • Efforts to obtain advisory opinions on climate change from the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea are being initiated and driven by Small Island Developing States. 

Source: UNEP