Global trends in climate change litigation: 2022 snapshot
Climate change litigation continues to grow in importance year-on-year as a way of either advancing or delaying effective action on climate change. In 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recognised the role of litigation in affecting “the outcome and ambition of climate governance”.
The latest edition of our annual report on global trends in climate change litigation takes stock of developments over the period May 2021 to May 2022, and draws on a number of recent case studies from around the world. It also identifies areas where climate litigation cases are likely to increase in the future.
The goal in these reports is to help readers understand the ways in which the law is being used
as a tool to advance a variety of often inconsistent climate-related agendas. Legal practitioners
may use the law to advance climate action, or, less frequently, seek to challenge the way in which
climate policy is designed or implemented or to deter policymakers from implementing more
restrictive measures on private parties responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.
- Globally, the cumulative number of climate change-related cases has more than doubled since 2015, bringing the total number of cases to over 2,000. Around one-quarter of these were filed between 2020 and 2022.
- Climate litigation has become an instrument used to enforce or enhance climate commitments made by governments, with 73 ‘framework’ cases challenging governments’ overall responses to climate change.
- Over the last 12 months, further legal cases have been brought against fossil fuel companies, especially outside the United States. Cases against corporate actors are also increasingly targeting the food and agriculture, transport, plastics and finance sectors.
- The number of climate litigation cases with strategic ambition (i.e. to bring about a broader societal shift) continues to rise.
- Recent litigation has commonalities with some of the most important issues highlighted by the international community at COP26, including the need to increase ambition and action from countries, and phase down the use of all fossil fuels across the energy sector.
- Five areas to watch in the coming year are: cases involving personal responsibility; cases challenging commitments that over-rely on greenhouse gas removals or ‘negative emissions’ technologies; cases focused on short-lived climate pollutants; cases explicitly concerned with the climate and biodiversity nexus; and strategies exploring legal recourse for the ‘loss and damage’ resulting from climate change.
The primary source for the report is the Climate Change Laws of the World (CCLW) database, maintained by the Grantham Research Institute, which includes cases filed before courts in 43 countries and 15 international or regional courts or tribunals. This data has been supplemented by the United States Climate Litigation Database, maintained by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, to provide aggregated global figures.