Legal interventions: How cities can drive climate action

Legal Interventions examines three categories of legal intervention that can enable cities to drive climate action: litigation, legal reform initiatives and pioneering policies or legislation by city governments. Cities can use these legal interventions to remove barriers to climate actions, clarify and obtain powers, and influence national government policy or corporate activities, enabling them to undertake more ambitious climate action and to tackle emission sources beyond their remit. This report, developed with the guidance of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, outlines how cities are already taking advantage of these different types of legal interventions and details a host of cases led by cities, non-governmental organisations and other actors.

This report is the foundation for the Knowledge Hub’s How cities can use the law to advance climate action, which also draws on wider expertise and resources to provide tips and key considerations.

Legal Interventions looks at:

  • Key issues to consider in climate change litigation, which details issues of admissibility, causation, sources of climate obligation, and separation of powers.
  • Public litigation, which describes cases seeking to strengthen national climate action, to address failure to implement or enforce government policy, and to challenge planned fossil-fuel expansion or high-carbon infrastructure projects.
  • Engagement with government ministries or agencies to drive changes in legislation or policy, highlighting examples from Cape Town, the United States and the European Union.
  • Corporate accountability, which describes cases seeking to hold major polluting industries accountable for climate impacts (fossil fuel companies and also automakers and consumer goods companies), to realign corporate strategies to consider climate impacts, to enforce regulatory compliance, and to protect consumers from greenwashing.
  • Bold and pioneering use of city powers, which covers cases in the energy, buildings, transport and waste sectors.

It also provides a glossary, clarifying key terms and legal definitions.

C40 Cities, 2021.

External link to report