Debevoise London Climate Change and ESG Litigation Series

9 August 2023
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Key Takeaways:
  • As we look ahead at UK litigation trends for 2023/2024, we expect to see a continued increase in the pace of climate and ESG related litigation. To date, there have been few direct climate change related actions brought before the English courts against private companies. However, in recent years we have seen Claimant law firms find innovative and novel ways to attempt to make UK companies liable for the acts of overseas subsidiaries and third parties for environmental harms. This is a development that could well lead to future climate change related cases in the United Kingdom.
  • In a new series for 2023, we are sharing our thoughts on how climate change and ESG litigation is emerging in the UK courts. We will consider whether the UK courts are likely to respond to the threats imposed by climate change to fundamental rights, property rights, rights to culture and human rights by imposing private law remedies against corporations.
  • In this article, we look at a new type of claim that we consider will form the basis of a wave of climate litigation in the coming years, namely, claims that will seek to establish direct corporate legal liability for adverse climate change impacts, either to obtain damages or other remedies (such as injunctions). Such claims will principally be based on historic and continued contributions to global emissions and pleaded in tort (or tort-like causes of action). A claim of this type has yet to be brought in the United Kingdom, and as such, the legal viability has not been properly tested (and, in reality, it is likely to be a very difficult claim).