Environmentalist social organizations, frustrated by the slow progress of governments and international agreements in the fight against climate change, have seen new and promising fronts of action in the judicial and financial systems. As temperatures rise and catastrophic weather events become more frequent – ​​and their link to global warming becomes clear – the possibilities in this field expand. There are responsibilities to impose and assume. Major climate litigation opportunities have been created by growing national commitments to the Paris Agreement. In the Netherlands, environmentalists have sued their government for not doing enough on climate issues, and the Dutch Supreme Court ruled in their favor in 2019. It ordered the Dutch government to impose more drastic emission reductions, on the grounds of protecting the own national territory. Likewise, in the Netherlands, environmentalists sued the oil company Shell in 2019 under the Civil Code and the European Convention on Human Rights, for not taking adequate measures to avoid the risks of climate change. In May 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the environmentalists and ordered Shell to reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030, including those caused by the consumption of fuels produced by the company. It is a crucial precedent that all oil companies are taking seriously, and potentially a true sword of Damocles.

In 2020, in Germany, another group of young environmentalists won a case before the Federal Constitutional Court, which established the obligation of the German government to protect the rights of future generations. As a consequence, the German Climate Change Law had to be modified to establish a 65% emission reduction by 2030. In the United States, also a group of young environmentalists representing “Future Generations” sued the federal government arguing the violation of their right to life, liberty and prosperity, by allowing the indiscriminate use of fossil fuels.The case is still pending resolution.

In 2021, a Peruvian farmer sued the largest German energy company (RWE), responsible for the largest individual emissions in Europe, for the melting of a glacier in the Andes, affecting his property and an ecotourism business, from a study conducted by the University of Oxford. German courts have admitted the case and are seriously considering it. It is easy to imagine everything that can happen in this same sense in relation to effects resulting from the rise in sea level, apocalyptic forest fires, and a greater intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.

In another course of action, environmentalists have managed to enter the boards of directors of polluting companies, to influence their climate decisions, as has been the well-known case of Exxon and the Polish energy company ENEA. The latter had undertaken the construction of a huge coal-fired power plant of 1,000 MW, for which environmental shareholders sued the company, arguing that, with this project, their interests would be affected, since the coal-fired power plant would remain as a stranded asset and unproductive (stranded asset), in the face of European climate policies, which would impact the financial health of the company. As a consequence, the construction of the plant was abandoned. These are strategic litigations that seek to modify the way in which not only companies in particular, but entire sectors or industries, operate. The same environmentalists acted in a similar way in Japan against the J-Power company’s project for a coal-fired power plant, demonstrating to its shareholders the financial risks that this plant implied. The project was cancelled. The banks that finance these types of fossil fuel projects are also under judicial fire. Meanwhile, securities market authorities – such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission – require fossil energy companies to disclose material risks associated with potential climate litigation, increased credit risk, and higher costs of capital. In parallel, more than 100 central banks have created the Network for Greening the Financial System, through which they promote the recognition that climate litigation is a high-risk factor for many companies, and that global warming can represent a systemic risk for countries and economic sectors; in addition to adding the climate cause to its inflation and employment objectives, and proposing mechanisms to favor credit to climate and environmentally sustainable companies.

In short, there is life beyond governments and international agreements on climate matters. Lawyers, environmentalists and judges fill the gaps and will occupy a leading position. We must, in Mexico, target PEMEX.

@g_quadri

Gabriel Quadri of the Tower

Civil Engineer and Economist

Serious Green

Mexican politician, liberal environmentalist and researcher, he has served as a public official and activist in the private sector. He was the candidate of the Nueva Alianza party for President of Mexico in the 2012 elections.



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