Climate & ESG

Climate Change Litigation

Pressure on Australian companies to address climate risk has never been higher

Recent political and legal developments both nationally and internationally have heightened this issue. The appetite for climate change litigation remains strong, with Australia seeing the second highest number of climate change related cases after the United States. Climate change litigation is widespread, with cases filed across six continents from 2020 onwards.

Litigants in this space are increasingly creative. Disputes range from human rights, challenges to development proposals and “greenwashing” (setting unachievable climate commitments or making misleading statements about green credentials). Climate change cases have been directed at public and private companies as well as federal and local governments and broadly include:

  • public law actions against governments and public authorities, raising human rights, constitutional and administrative law issues; and
  • private law actions based in tort, nuisance, misrepresentation, fraud, planning, company law and arising out of statute.

At King & Wood Mallesons we help our clients to navigate the complex landscape of climate change with a focus on mitigating risk; whether it be responding to increased stakeholder pressure or operational risk from extreme weather events, managing market and reputational impact, or mitigating greenhouse gas emission liability.

We have a comprehensive team of specialists who can support clients with evolving regulatory requirements, manage transactional issues and provide advice on climate related issues.

Market highlights

  • REST: in defending a claim brought against the superannuation fund by a fund member alleging that it violated the Corporations Act 2001 by failing to provide information related to climate change business risks and any plans to address those risks.
  • Tuggerah Lakes residents: in preparation of a class action lawsuit against central coast council regarding the recent flood event that impacted residents of Tuggerah Lakes.
  • Kyrgyz Republic: in defending UNCITRAL arbitration proceedings in relation to a US$100 million-plus claim by Canadian mining company Centerra Gold arising from environmental fees and penalties.
  • Landowners along Belongil Beach, Byron Bay: in their appeal to the Land & Environment Court regarding development applications to protect their properties from coastal hazards. The impact of coastal erosion is a significant issue in NSW and an emerging area of climate change litigation, involving a complex interplay between private and public interests.
  • UNICEF: on a child’s rights in the context of the environment in across five jurisdictions including Vietnam, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia and Mongolia (on a pro bono basis).
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