Emerging trends in recent Human Rights-based climate change and litigation targeting government accountability

Master Thesis


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Increasing global attention on climate change has resulted in the growth of climate change litigation worldwide. 2019 and 2020 saw a global rise in human rights-based climate change litigation and certain new trends seem apparent in this litigation, specifically relating to holding governments accountable for their actions. Due to climate change cases being canvassed comprehensively in other publications up until 2019, this dissertation focuses on those cases filed in 2019 and 2020 and cases in which major developments occurred in the last two years. Prior to 2019, the trends that emerged from climate change litigation were, inter alia, governments being held accountable for not adhering to stated national commitments, the linking of the impacts of extracting resources to climate change, establishing that certain emissions are causing particular adverse climate effects, the liability of governments that failed to adapt to the climate crisis and the use of the public trust doctrine. In the context of human rights-based climate change litigation targeting government accountability (relevant litigation) there appears to have been a shift in the trends that have emerged since 2019. These trends are claimants relying on regional instruments in the relevant litigation, the use of judicial review, the increasing use of children's rights in the relevant litigation and the linking of climate change and the displacement of indigenous people. The content of this dissertation critically evaluates these contemporary trends and highlights ongoing challenges and opportunities for development in the field of human rights-based climate change litigation targeting government accountability