Climate litigation represents a frontier solution to change the dynamics of the fight against climate change. This Global Climate Litigation Report: 2023 Status Review shows that people are increasingly turning to the courts to combat the climate crisis. As of December 2022, there have been 2,180 climate-related cases filed in 65 jurisdictions, including international and regional courts, tribunals, quasi-judicial bodies, or other adjudicatory bodies, such as Special Procedures at the United Nations and arbitration tribunals. This represents a steady increase from 884 cases in 2017 and 1,550 cases in 2020. Children and youth, women’s groups, local communities, and Indigenous Peoples, among others, are taking a prominent role in bringing these cases and driving climate change governance reform in more and more countries around the world.
This report, which updates previous United Nations Environment Programme reports published in 2017 and 2020, provides an overview of the current state of climate change litigation and an update on global climate change litigation trends. It provides judges, lawyers, advocates, policymakers, researchers, environmental defenders, climate activists, human rights activists (including women’s rights activists), NGOs, businesses and the international community at large with an essential resource to understand the current state of global climate litigation, including descriptions of the key issues that courts have faced in the course of climate change cases.
This report further demonstrates the importance of an environmental rule of law in combating the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. Access to justice enables the protection of environmental law and human rights and promotes accountability in public institutions. The report was launched in conjunction with the anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly’s recognition of the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment (A/RES/76/300), as the majority of cases brought before the courts demonstrate concrete links between human rights and climate change. The UNGA resolution, which recognises that climate change impacts have negative implications on the enjoyment of all human rights, is likely to drive further action on climate change in the future.