Lawsuits Continue to Gain Popularity As Tool in Climate Fight

An activists calls for climate action at a Paris protest in 2017.

An activists calls for climate action at a Paris protest in 2017. Kelly Bell Photography/Flickr

A collection of families from eight countries have filed suit against the European Union, claiming it has failed to adequately protect citizens from the impacts of climate change, The Guardian reported. The litigants argue the EU’s current target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 40 percent by 2030 is not aggressive enough.

The plaintiffs, who are not seeking compensation, include families from Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Kenya, Fiji, and the Swedish Sami Youth Association Sáminuorra. Maurice Feschet, a lavender farmer from France, told The Guardian he joined the suit after losing 44 percent of his harvest in six years because of climate change. “My family has been farming here since the 1800s,” he said. “I am taking this action for my 38-year-old son who lives on the farm. We want him to continue to be able to farm, but it is not going to be easy. There must be more done.”

The lawsuit is latest of hundreds of climate cases currently winding their way through judicial systems around the globe. Bloomberg News reported this week that the number of climate change lawsuits filed each year has jumped from just a handful in 2000 to more than 120 cases today, the majority of which are filed in the United States. This tally includes lawsuits brought by environmental groups and citizens for stricter climate action, as well as by companies opposing regulations.

“It’s a legitimate method of seeking to not only draw attention to the issue of climate change but really hold governments to account because it’s already causing harm to people around the world,” Sophie Marjanac, a lawyer at the activist law firm ClientEarth, which is behind several European pollution suits, told Bloomberg News. These cases “hold elected officials to account, especially when those officials are breaching fundamental human rights.”