Consultation and the resurgence of evidence
Will Big Oil face the same legal challenges as Big Tobacco?
A recent Special Report in The Economist had a section heading called ‘Courtrooms are the new battleground for climate activism’. It chronicles the growth in litigation against oil companies and others as campaigners raise the stakes and the climate change debate matures, especially in the United States.
Cases vary enormously. Some rely on the argument that companies have continued to extract fossil fuels and thereby made extreme weather events more likely. Some have been based on human rights, and others have targeted Oil Executives for taking risks with shareholder values by disregarding the existential threat to their core business. In Europe, ClientEarth bought shares in EnEa, a Polish utility and challenged the economic arguments for a proposed new coal-fired power plant. When it went to court, they won.
Last December, the Dutch Supreme Court ordered its Government to cut the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Two months later, the plan for a Third Runway at Heathrow collapsed when the Court of Appeal declared it to be inconsistent with the UK’s commitment to zero-emissions. In a few weeks, eyes will be on an Australian case. This is against a pension fund for not safeguarding its investors’ funds by continuing to pour money into fossil-fuel industries despite the avalanche of regulations coming from Governments around the world.