30/03/2022 - 09:15

Litigation surges as climate takes centre stage

30/03/2022 - 09:15


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Litigation surges as climate takes centre stage

According to our recently released Business Guide to Climate Disputes, Australia will be a key market for strategic climate litigation for years to come.

The urgency of climate change is brought home by Australia’s diverse environment and its sensitivity to extreme weather events, which are more frequent and severe.

The 2021 IPCC Physical Science Report emphasises advances in both the physical science and the strength of agreement between the world’s scientists regarding human-induced climate change. The physical risks associated with climate change will increase and certain physical impacts are already locked in. Even with the deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions we should expect the effects of climate change to become increasingly disruptive for at least the next 20 years.

The coming decades will see significant shifts in economic activities as a result of the build-up of physical and transition risks (policy, legal, market and technology changes) to meet increasing commitments and ambition.

Activists have never been better organised and are increasingly holding boards and directors to account.

For these reasons, among others, there has been a dramatic rise in climate change litigation in recent years, such that it is now an increasingly prominent feature of the international disputes landscape. In a growing number of markets, cases have been brought seeking to compel governments and businesses to act on climate change. Our Business Guide to Climate Disputes confirmed that, by the end of 2020, well over 1,700 climate-related court cases had been decided worldwide. The United States led the field on climate disputes (1,213), followed by Australia (98), United Kingdom (62), Canada (22), New Zealand (18), Spain (13), and France (11). 

Climate change risk is a real and pressing challenge for Australian companies and their boards, with the impacts of climate change on business extending beyond carbon-intensive industries and into industries such as financial services and technology.

Monitoring and accountability of corporate and government efforts to address climate change continue to drive an exponential increase in climate disputes. Australian financial institutions and other corporates have faced action for failure to disclose climate risks in accordance with company law, in annual reports and public statements. Growing scrutiny of climate-related matters calls for meaningful and credible engagement with climate risk and opportunity and clear, careful and consistent communication with the market and other stakeholders. Businesses wanting to retain market share, and remain competitive and relevant must now develop credible near- and mid-term climate action plans or review and revise them if already prepared; implement plans with urgency and conviction; and create transparency and accountability frameworks to track progress and results.

DLA Piper supports climate action through our pro-bono work and as a founding member of the Net Zero Lawyers Alliance. We were pleased to be the official legal services provider to the UK Government for COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow last year. 

In pursuing our purpose of making business better, we are committed to helping our clients and communities to transition to and thrive in a more sustainable future. We hope this guide supports your business in planning for, and making, its climate transition. We encourage you to read our Business Guide to Climate Disputes.



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