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20.07.2023 | KPMG Law Insights

Podcast series “KPMG Law on air”: Climate change as a legal issue – environmental lawsuits on the rise

Around the world, more and more NGOs and private individuals are taking legal action to advance the achievement of climate protection goals. Defendants in climate lawsuits are states and, increasingly, private companies or their corporate bodies. German courts are also busy with the proceedings. Among other things, the plaintiffs cite the so-called climate decision of the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) of March 24, 2021, probably the best-known climate case in Germany to date. In it, the BVerfG ruled: The state must distribute the burdens associated with the reduction of greenhouse gases equally among the generations. The alleviation of this burden was a constitutionally protected right to freedom of the younger generation, to which the majority of the complainants belonged.

Companies should have an ESG strategy and transparent reporting

Companies can prevent climate lawsuits. To do this, they should have an ESG strategy and take climate protection into account in all decisions. Transparent ESG reporting can also be important, as has already been demonstrated in a climate case in France.

It is likely that the number of climate-related lawsuits will continue to increase. New aspects, such as plastic waste pollution from packaging, are also already filling court dockets under the heading of “plastic litigation.”

Isabelle Knoché, lawyer and senior manager, is an expert on the topic of climate lawsuits and reports in the podcast on previous and ongoing proceedings and gives an assessment of their prospects of success. She also offers tips on how companies can avoid lawsuits.

The core topics of the podcast:

  • From minute 1:10: Who are climate lawsuits against?
  • From minute 3:50: What is the goal of the lawsuits and what are they about?
  • From minute 5:13: What is the legal basis for lawsuits against states?
  • From minute 6:45: How lawsuits against companies are legally justified
  • From minute 8:40: How have courts decided so far and what do plaintiffs have to present?
  • From minute 9:46: What companies face in the event of a conviction
  • From minute 10:30: Current example: Lawsuit of a farmer from Peru against an oil company
  • From minute 11:25: How companies can avoid litigation
  • From minute 12:55: Another trend: “Plastic Litigation

All “KPMG Law on air” episodes can be found here.

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Isabelle Knoche

Senior Manager

THE SQUAIRE Am Flughafen
60549 Frankfurt am Main

tel: 069 951195200

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