Webinar: Rising Sea Levels: Promoting Climate Justice through International Law

Rights : Community : Action director Alex Goodman was one of the participants in a webinar looking at the prospects for legal action by and on behalf of communities devastated by rising sea levels.  The webinar was organised by the British Institute of International and Competitive Law (BIICL).

Since the mid-2000s, several domestic legal systems have witnessed the emergence of litigation focused on legal liability for climate change harms and damages, as a result of rising sea levels. These cases have mainly been directed against national and – particularly – local governments, for damages to coastal properties allegedly exacerbated by lack of or inadequate governmental actions or regulations.

However, climate liability litigation has been filed also against private corporate actors, namely carbon majors, such as in some Californian cases filed by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, in 2017. In these cases, the carbon majors are considered ‘proximate cause’ of climate change, and the cities seek to reimburse taxpayers for adaptation costs such as sea walls, necessary to protect them from rising sea levels.

The importance and the need of domestic climate litigation related to sea level rise is increasing in every part of the globe, both in consideration of the urgency of this phenomenon and associated impacts, and the growth of the population and infrastructures along the coast.

Questions considered:

  • What course of legal action can be pursued at the domestic level by affected coastal communities seeking redress for climate change impacts, such as sea level rise?
  • Where legal responsibility for taking protective action against rising sea levels should lie?
  • What about claims for compensation?
  • What are the consequences of climate litigation from an intergenerational point of view?

Chair: Rt. Hon. Lord Carnwath of Notting Hill , Former Judge of UK Supreme Court; Landmark Chambers

Speakers: – Alex Goodman, Landmark Chambers; Jason Reeves, Zelle LLP; Dr Joana Setzer, Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE); Deepa Sutherland, Zelle LLP

Alex’s slides can be viewed in more detail here. 


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