Climate Law, Meet Climate Finance

Jamie Wilkie

Cases related to climate and environmental issues

Courtesy of London School of Economics via the Financial Times; note that 2022’s figure represents Jan – May

Litigation of climate-related damages is turning into big business – a big buisiness that is attracting armies of lawyers and financiers.

Background: In the last decade, lawsuits seeking damages for environmental and climate issues has risen from less than 10 cases per year in the early 2000s to more than 200 per year today – primarily focusing on specific environmental incidents (i.e. oil spills).

Just the beginning? Lawyers in the space think we are on the verge of a wave of lawsuits targeting companies for their contribution to global warming.

  • Some test cases are underway: a Peruvian farmer is suing German utility RWE over shrinking glacieres while a group of Indonesian islanders are suing major cement-maker Holcim over rising sea levels and increased flooding.

Climate law’s “golden moment”

Some expect that a successful climate lawsuit in the US would likely be the largest verdict in history (think trillions, with a ‘t’). A lawsuit like that costs a lot of money, more than most Peruvian famers or Pacific islanders have on hand. Luckily, bankers and lawyers have a solution – climate lawsuit funds can provide the cash for legal work, and take a percentage of proceeds in return.

  • If you can’t solve climate change, you might as well profit from it, right?

Zoom out: Climate lawsuits haven’t had a big win yet, but like professional sports, wins often follow the money. Stay tuned.

Bonus event: This year’s LSE Climate Law update is at the end of June