COP28: Highlights from Climate Law & Governance Day

05 Dec 2023

Cornerstone Climate

Dr Christina Lienen, full-time academic and Associate Member of Cornerstone, lists her key takeaways from Day 6 of COP28.

On my first day at COP28 in Dubai (Day 6), I attended the 2023 Climate Law & Governance Day, co-hosted by different educational institutions and other organisations, including Middlesex University Dubai, the University of Cambridge and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law. Cornerstone Climate were proud to be among the sponsors for today’s event, which featured a wide range of topics addressing climate law, policy and practice.

Here are a seven highlights and insights from the different panel sessions of today’s event, which I hope will be of interest to environmental lawyers, lawyers with different specialisations and non-lawyers alike:

  1. One of the much discussed initiatives in the field of climate change was the ICJ Advisory Opinion Campaign. The starting point to this successful campaign is the fact that the United Nation’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the only principal organ of the UN system which has yet to contribute to the climate crisis legal framework. In March 2023, as a result of a cross-nation campaign led by Vanuatu, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution requesting the ICJ to provide an advisory opinion on the obligations of states under international law to protect the rights of present and future generations against the adverse effects of climate change. While not legally binding, the anticipated decision is expected to be very important to steer other (binding forms of) litigation.
  2. We can observe a substantial increase in climate change litigation in more and more places around the world under different legal regimes. This is because a variety of legal areas are impacted by the climate change argument, and litigants and action groups are pursuing the issue from different angles, including regulatory law, tort law, constitutional law and human rights law. Cases are now also brought against a wide range of actors, including commercial entities. Believed to be one of the first cases of its kind is the claim against BNP Paribas (2023), challenging the bank’s energy loans policy under French law.
  3. The legal theory of climate change and the rules of evidence in proceedings of this nature are maturing and progressing faster than we have seen in other areas of law.
  4. At the forefront of many climate-related court cases are frontline communities directly – and often disproportionately severely – impacted by climate change, including indigenous peoples.
  5. Capacity building for judges is vital to keep this area of law moving.
  6. The Paris Agreement is not the be-all and end-all of states’ legal obligations in the area of climate change. There are multiple sources of obligations to act in the face of the climate emergency, and temperature targets should not limit what states need to be doing.
  7. Everyone interested in the trajectory of climate litigation will find the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment’s report “Global trends in climate change litigation: 2023 snapshot” a helpful starting point to keep up to date on recent key cases in this area.