Climate change is more often discussed not as an abstract threat but a real issue. Extreme weather events like hurricanes and typhoons, floods, wildfires, habitat change, industry stress and diseases break out in new areas. In 2010 material damage caused by climate change has been estimated to $591 billion. The experts inform that the number will increase in the coming years. Such significant costs cause the issue of liability and compensation.
Companies responsible for large-scale greenhouse gases emanation might be responsible for material damage associated with climate change. This idea is not new. A few lawsuits claiming compensation for climate change damages have been led in the United States. These cases have encountered some problems, however, climate damages litigations attract more and more attention.
The experts assume that lawsuits will be brought in home countries of greenhouse gas emitters. Still, climate change is a global problem since emissions originate in every country and their effects are spread all over the world.
This raises the possibility of transnational litigation involving a victim suing greenhouse gas emitters in his or her own country, even if the emitters originate from other countries. Transnational litigation implies interrelated and complex questions about jurisdiction, choice of law, recognition and enforcement.
The courts of the country where an illegal act took place have jurisdiction over indemnity for the harm. In the case of climate change, it should not be admitted that the illegal act took place in the country of the emitter, as the emissions caused damages together with global emissions. Climate damages claims should be brought in countries where the harm is done.
After asserting jurisdiction, it is necessary to regard which country’s laws should be applied. It is logical to suppose that the court applies the laws of its country. However, in transnational litigation, foreign laws might be practised. In many countries the law of the location where the illegal act took place is applied. Still, concerning climate damages, there is a real question as to where the illegal act took place.
Greenhouse gas emitters might presume that damage decree pronounced by courts in countries where they have no assets are quite safe. In many countries, however, if a court in a foreign jurisdiction pronounces damage decree, the legal decision is acknowledged as a debt and is recovered. Concerning the other aspects, whether and how this occurs depends on the laws of the country. Still, such possibility has serious implications for greenhouse gas emitters in developed countries, since it might expose them to lawsuits anywhere all over the world.
Climate damages lawsuits have a global potential. Litigations can be brought in different countries, then enforced in other countries where greenhouse gas emitters have their assets. As a result, such companies experience significant financial and legal risks.
Climate change is increasingly causing serious damage around the world leading to requests for compensation. These requests will be addressed through climate damages litigations. Major greenhouse gas emitters and their shareholders can avoid such risk by reducing their emanations, which requires rejection of fossil fuels, as well as concluding new international agreements about compensation demands, climate liability and emanation reductions in extensive ways.
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