Why climate litigators may be coming for your company

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Send in the lawyers!

That seems to be the marching orders for climate activists these days. And not just the leading NGOs: Individuals, cities, Indigenous tribes, even kids are lawyering up to rush in where regulators fear to tread.

And companies are a growing target.

Lawsuits seeking to accelerate progress on reducing or eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, or addressing other environmental wrongs, have been around for decades. Among the earliest was one filed by activist economist Jeremy Rifkin in 1992, challenging several U.S. agencies that, according to the suit, did not consider the effects of climate change in their policies. It was summarily dismissed, but it helped pave the way for many others to follow.

Three decades later, there are nearly 2,000 climate lawsuits active worldwide, according to a database maintained by the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. Just over 800 cases were filed between 1986 and 2014, but more than 1,000 have been brought before the courts since then. Most build on those early efforts to hold public agencies accountable, but many are taking on the private sector. Read more…