CLA News / Empowering lawyers to bring strategic climate litigation


CLA members and friends recently enjoyed an inspiring webinar on strategic climate litigation, presented by Dr Chris McGrath of the Brisbane bar and hosted by Fiona Ey, Climate Justice Committee Co-Convenor.

The one-hour session focused on litigation that is “strategic”, in the sense that it seeks to achieve a wider beneficial outcome than merely the remedy sought from the court. Chris challenged us with two propositions:

  1. Liability for climate change is widespread but largely unrealized; and
  2. When considering opportunities for strategic climate litigation, we should move from abstract theories to real & specific case studies – who, what, which court, how.

Chris explored these issues in a practical and informative way, using a case study of customary landowners on the low-lying Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea potentially suing Australia’s largest coal fired power station. The underlying theme focused on the central strategic objective in current climate litigation trends: make large fossil fuel producers and users liable for the damage they cause.

The case study was based on human rights and common law actions in a transboundary claim. Using engaging materials, Chris worked through a number of practical issues that a plaintiff would face when bringing climate litigation, including identifying potential plaintiffs and defendants, what causes of action are available, evidentiary issues, remedies and procedural issues.

This was the first webinar hosted by the Climate Justice Committee and attracted over 470 registrations from at least 36 countries. While the seminar focused on a Pacific island case study, the wide geographic spread of participants shows the common challenges we face and the power of sharing solutions across the Commonwealth.

The workshop recording, slides and handout are now available here

Fiona Ey

CLA Council member for Samoa

Co-convener of the CLA Climate Justice Committee