Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

International Seminar on Climate Litigation as Governance Tool

Friday, October 23, 2020 to Saturday, October 24
Webinar/Duke Kunshan University
International Seminar on Climate Litigation as Governance Tool


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Can courts help save the planet? In the past decade, individuals and organizations across the globe have brought an increasing number of climate lawsuits. In the US, since the 1990s courts at various levels have heard hundreds of public and private climate litigation cases, which have contributed to the development of climate policy and governance. Yet, it is in Europe and Asia that the most significant breakthroughs have been observed recently, with Courts finding their government guilty of failing to act sufficiently to address climate change. In China as well, although there are only a few cases, climate litigation is increasingly regarded as an important innovation, with a first landmark public interest lawsuit brought by NGOs against grid companies in 2018 to address renewable energy curtailment issues.

These cases have spurred important academic and public debates about the role that litigation can play to hold emitters and governments accountable, about the legal basis for such actions in statutory law, case law, constitutional law, international law and fundamental rights law, as well as about the role of courts in legislative and policy developments to address climate change. Yet, legal systems vary and, although practitioners and scholars have followed and learned from what happens in other jurisdictions, there is still a lack of cross-jurisdictional comparison and global academic dialogue about the role that litigation already plays and could play in climate change governance.

The international seminar organized in hybrid format at Duke Kunshan University on 24 October 2020 brought together 29 international and Chinese scholars and legal practitioners with first-hand experience in climate litigation to meet and exchange about these issues. Through case studies and cross-country analysis spanning the American, European and Asian continents, speakers discussed the potential and limitations of climate litigation as a new channel to combat climate change, including past development and trends, strengths, challenges, and implications. It also provided a unique opportunity for Chinese stakeholders to exchange with international counterparts and share their perspective on domestic environmental litigation.

The conference was attended in person and online by over 80 students from DKU, Duke University and other Universities and organizations. As a follow-up, students from the International Master of Environmental Policy at DKU carried out individual interviews with each of the speakers to explore in more depth their professional background, motivation to engage with climate justice and to hear more from them on some of the ideas or concepts that were put forward and debated at the conference. This website is aimed at making all this material available in English and Chinese to wider audiences.

International Seminar on Climate Litigation as Governance Tool

法院可以帮助拯救地球吗?在过去的十年中,全球的个人和组织提出了越来越多的气候诉讼。在美国,自1990年代以来,各级法院已经收到了数百起公共和私人的气候诉讼案件,这些案件为气候政策的制定以及气候治理做出了贡献。然而,近期最引人关注的突破发生在欧洲和亚洲:最高法院认为其政府因未能采取充分行动应对气候变化而被判有罪;在中国,虽然案件目前较少, 但是气候诉讼日益被视为一项重要的创新,其中第一项具有里程碑意义的公益诉讼由非政府组织于2018年提起,以解决国家电网公司的弃风弃光问题。





This event site was prepared by Prof Coraline Goron, who assumes responsibility for any mistakes or shortcomings. We would like to thank Zhixian Luo, Lehe Xu and Xiaohan Cui for their help with the texts;. Xiaohan Cui, Yue Zou, Chenhan Shao, Jiaming liu, Jing Gu, Mengfan Gong, Muye Huang, Rui Jiang, Wenrui Qu, Yufei Dong, Yuhe Jin and Alberto Najarro for their help with transcription and translation; Mingyu Zhou for the design; Jasper Cai from LRFR for the professional video editing and Josh Wilson at Duke's Nicholas Institute for the web design and editing.


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