The Status of Climate Change Litigation: A Global Review

Over the last decade, laws codifying national and international responses to climate change have grown in number, specificity, and importance. As these laws have recognized new rights and created new duties, litigation seeking to challenge either their facial validity or their particular application has followed. So too has litigation aimed at pressing legislators and policymakers to be more ambitious and thorough in their approaches to climate change. In addition, litigation seeking to fill the gaps left by legislative and regulatory inaction has also continued. As a result, courts are adjudicating a growing number of disputes over actions—or inaction—related to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

This report provides judges, advocates, researchers, and the international community with an of-the-moment survey of global climate change litigation, an overview of litigation trends, and descriptions of key issues that courts must resolve in the course of climate change cases. One purpose of this report is to assist judges in understanding the nature and goals of different types of climate change cases, issues that are common to these cases, and how the particularities of political, legal, and environmental settings factor in to their resolution. Another goal is to contribute to a common language among practitioners around the world working to address climate change through the courts.

Date Published

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Resource Type



Environmental Law


Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)