Home » Rise in Climate Litigation Against Companies, Report Finds

Rise in Climate Litigation Against Companies, Report Finds

by Madaline Dunn

At least 230 new climate cases were filed in 2023, with climate litigation against companies on the rise, according to a new report. The paper, produced by the Grantham Research Institute in partnership with the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, found that the number of cases concerning ‘climate-washing’ has grown in recent years, with cases increasingly seeking to hold governments and companies accountable for climate action, or lack thereof.

In fact, 47 cases on ‘climate-washing’ were filed in 2023, bringing the recorded total to more than 140, with more than 70 per cent of completed cases decided in favour of the claimants.

Alongside ‘climate-washing’ cases, ‘polluter pays’ cases accounted for more than 30 cases, with six new ‘turning off the taps’ cases—cases that challenge the flow of finance to projects not climate-aligned—also brought forward in 2023.

The ‘Global trends in climate change litigation: 2024 snapshot’ report noted that while the US remains the country with the highest number of documented cases (1,745), climate cases are spreading to more countries, with litigation in 55 countries.

Last year, the UK followed behind the US with 24 cases, with 10 in Brazil and seven in Germany. Last year also saw cases filed in Panama and Portugal for the first time.

Cases are also increasingly emerging in the Global South, it outlined, with more than 200 climate cases recorded in the databases.

The report found that companies from many sectors are now at risk of climate litigation. Indeed, while cases against companies have traditionally been focused on the fossil fuel sector, they are now being launched across other sectors, including airlines, the food and beverage industry, e-commerce and financial services, the report notes.

Moreover, since the ratification of the Paris Agreement, around 230 strategic climate-aligned lawsuits have been initiated against companies and trade associations. More than two-thirds of these cases have emerged in the last four years.

The report also outlined that although the number of cases expanded “less rapidly” last year than previously, this could be down to suggest a consolidation and concentration of strategic litigation efforts in areas anticipated to have a high impact.

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