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WIREs Clim Change
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Climate change litigation: A review of research on courts and litigants in climate governance

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Studies of climate change litigation have proliferated over the past two decades, as lawsuits across the world increasingly bring policy debates about climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as climate change‐related loss and damage to the attention of courts. We systematically identify 130 articles on climate change litigation published in English in the law and social sciences between 2000 and 2018 to identify research trajectories. In addition to a budding interdisciplinarity in scholarly interest in climate change litigation we also document a growing understanding of the full spectrum of actors involved and implicated in climate lawsuits and the range of motivations and/or strategic imperatives underpinning their engagement with the law. Situating this within the broader academic literature on the topic we then highlight a number of cutting edge trends and opportunities for future research. Four emerging themes are explored in detail: the relationship between litigation and governance; how time and scale feature in climate litigation; the role of science; and what has been coined the “human rights turn” in climate change litigation. We highlight the limits of existing work and the need for future research—not limited to legal scholarship—to evaluate the impact of both regulatory and anti‐regulatory climate‐related lawsuits, and to explore a wider set of jurisdictions, actors and themes. Addressing these issues and questions will help to develop a deeper understanding of the conditions under which litigation will strengthen or undermine climate governance. This article is categorized under: Policy and Governance > Multilevel and Transnational Climate Change Governance
Timeline of the number of journal publications per year that contained the search terms “climate” and “litigation” in the title and/or abstract, up until September 2018, with high‐profile lawsuits annotated. Note that in the case of Massachusetts v. EPA, the petition was filed in 1999, and 2007 is the year in which the Supreme Court issued its ruling, siding with the petitioners. In the case of Urgenda v. Kingdom of the Netherlands, the summons was filed in 2013, and 2015 is when the District Court of The Hague issued its ruling, siding with the petitioners (which in October 2018 was upheld by the Hague Court of Appeal)
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Disciplinary emphasis in climate litigation, at various stages and covering different actors
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Distribution of articles examining climate litigation in the Global North (“North”), articles that have a clear focus on litigation or litigation‐related issues in the Global South (“South”), and articles that have an international focus or cover jurisdictions in both North and South (“Both”)
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Climate litigation papers with regard to broad recurring themes (mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage) that they engage with
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Policy and Governance > Multilevel and Transnational Climate Change Governance

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