Biodiversity-related litigation expected to be on the rise -experts

Published 18:09 on January 18, 2023  /  Last updated at 19:29 on January 18, 2023  /  Biodiversity  /  No Comments

Experts are bracing for increasing legal action linked to biodiversity in the coming years, the WEF annual summit in Davos heard on Wednesday, taking as a cue the recent rise in litigation against big companies and governments over their climate-related actions or inactions.

Experts are bracing for increasing legal action linked to biodiversity in the coming years, the WEF annual summit in Davos heard this week, taking as a cue the recent rise in litigation against big companies and governments over their climate-related actions or inactions.

Some 2,000 climate litigation cases have been filed across 43 countries since 2005, with around a quarter issued in the past two years, according to research conducted last year by the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics.

Examples of these types of cases include green group ClientEarth’s 2022 litigation against petroleum company Shell, arguing that Shell’s board had failed to properly manage climate risk.

They also represent at least 80 cases filed against governments for their unconvincing climate ambitions or lacklustre implementation of those ambitions.

“Before 2015, only five rightsbased litigation cases were in process,” said Ayisha Siddiqa at a WEF event on Tuesday, research scholar at NYU school of law and co-founder of Polluters Out and Fossil Free University.

“After 2015, because of Paris [the UN climate pact struck that year], there are now 40,” she added.

Experts said that the Global Biodiversity Framework, agreed by global governments at the UN’s COP15 biodiversity talks in Montreal in December could act as a similar catalyst to biodiversity-related litigation.

Courts are designed to “remedy harm and loss and enforce laws, and they do that based on a science-based approach,” said Alice Garton, legal director for the Foundation for International Law for the Environment.

“In terms of the application to biodiversity loss and nature …we’re seeing it now, as the science and the evidence becomes strong enough,” she added. “I expect the trend to continue.”

Garton pointed to the ongoing case brought by a coalition of South American conservation groups against the French supermarket chain Casino, alleging that the their meat-purchase supply chain was linked to deforestation and nature loss.

Siddiqa pointed to existing climate litigation with a clear link to biodiversity as another avenue, noting the example of the 2018 supreme court case in Colombia that ruled in favour of youth plaintiffs, agreeing that deforestation in the Amazon and increasing temperatures violated the youth’s constitutional rights to a healthy environment, life, health, food, and water.

Experts agreed that these types of litigation cases are likely to continue to grow in number, particularly as more harm is done to the climate and environment with corresponding negative impacts on peoples’ lives.

“It’s hard to know how exactly [litigation] is going to develop, but its certainly going to develop,” said Sebastian Vos, chair of law firm Covington’s global public policy practice.

“So, whether you’re a company or a government, you need to understand where this is headed so that you can handle yourself in the right way.”

“I guess my message would be, do your homework,” he said.

By Katherine Monahan – katherine@carbon-pulse.com

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