Governments can now hold big polluters pay for the climate damage they knowingly cause following the release of a liability roadmap: a first-of-its-kind tool that provides a concrete set of tools and case studies that decision-makers can use to hold them liable.
The Liability Roadmap is a creation by the Global Coalition, released just one week before the UN climate week, and days after Portuguese young people announced they’re suing 33 countries over inaction on climate change.
“The launch of the liability roadmap is timely. It presents an opportunity and pathway that African governments must seize to finally hold polluting industries accountable for the environmental and human rights abuses they have caused in communities across Africa and the world over,” says Akinbode Oluwafemi Executive Director Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA)
As the demands to make big polluters pay grow louder and lawsuits against fossil fuel corporations mount, this tool will be central to taking liability out of courtrooms in a handful of countries and into communities and capitals around the world, says a press release from Global Coalition.
Polluting industries must be held liable for the damage they cause. Liability refers to using tools (legal, legislative, policy, cultural, etc.) to hold corporations and industries responsible for their roles in driving the climate crisis and undermining action to address it
For the big polluters being held liable and paying for damages also means unlocking climate finance needed to address the climate crisis and implement solutions. Liability has taken on new importance amid the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented climate disasters.
Many Big Polluters are in large part responsible for the multi-faceted crises people are facing and are still attempting to profit from fueling it – demanding government bailouts and rolling out public relations schemes that position themselves as solutions.
“The liability roadmap is about more than lawsuits and courtrooms. This is about making Big Polluters pay for the havoc they’ve wreaked by fueling the climate crisis and about forcing them to end their abuses,” says Sriram Madhusoodanan, U.S. climate campaign director, Corporate Accountability.
“This is about making Big Polluters pay for causing decades of suffering and destruction in communities on the global frontlines of the climate crisis, with no end in sight. The roadmap will carry us further down the road where Big Polluters are forced to put people’s well-being and the well-being of the Earth and its ecosystems above expansion, extraction, and profit-making,” says Madhusoodanan.
Last September, international climate organizations launched a global call for Big Polluter liability at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit in New York City. And at COP25 in Madrid, the demands of hundreds of thousands of people to make Big Polluters pay were delivered to government delegates. Organizations and signatories echoing this call hail from around 70 countries including Bolivia, The Philippines, and Nigeria.
Fossil fuel and other polluting industry liability is a growing area of focus for climate experts, academics, and governments alike as the industry’s long history of denial and the link between industry emissions and climate impacts becomes more evidenced.
For example, The Philippines’ commission on human rights has concluded that the fossil fuel industry can be held legally responsible for their role in climate change. Earlier this year, the expansion of Heathrow Airport was successfully stopped after civil society argued it was a violation of the UK government’s Paris Agreement commitments. Indian fisherman challenging the International Finance Corporation (IFC) secured a precedent-setting judgment in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019.
In Peru, a farmer is suing a German utility for its role in the crisis harming his livelihood. And, in the United States this year, a federal court ruled against the fossil fuel industry in a procedural matter that could not only clear the way for more cities and states to seek industry accountability, but it could also even revive cases that had been previously dismissed at the U.S. federal level.