19th December 2022
This year we have seen the human cost of inaction on climate change. Devastating floods have hit Pakistan, leaving millions homeless and causing damage estimated to be in excess of $30 billion. Europe has seen its hottest summer on record this year with the heat leading to thousands of deaths across the continent. China’s longest and strongest heatwave on record lasted for two months, bringing drought, wildfires and crop failures.
But despite tales of environmental doom and gloom, there is hope and positive climate action everywhere. This year, we took legal action across the planet to fight pollution, protect wildlife and nature, and promote environmental justice. Here are some of the big wins we achieved in the last 12 months.
We won our case against the UK Government
We won our case against the UK Government over their inadequate net zero strategy in July – during record high temperatures. The High Court agreed that it breaches the Climate Change Act and needs to be made stronger.
We brought a greenwashing lawsuit against KLM
We filed a greenwashing lawsuit against airline KLM, claiming that their marketing promoting the sustainability of flying is misleading.
KLM’s Fly Responsibly ad campaign suggests it’s possible for flying to be ‘sustainable’ through carbon offsets and biofuel but the reality is that KLM – and all airlines – are not tackling the climate crisis, they are fueling it.
We took legal action against Shell
Back in March, we took action against Shell’s Board for mismanaging climate risk. We were seeking to hold Shell liable for failing to properly prepare for an energy transition away from fossil fuels. Shell is bound by the Paris Agreement so by not having a proper strategy that aligns with the Paris goals, we believe they are breaching their legal duties. This was the first ever case of its kind.
We joined a case against Total Energies for misleading adverts
We joined legal action, taking TotalEnergies to court for misleading advertising that tries to convince consumers it can become carbon neutral by 2050, despite continuing to sell more fossil fuels.
Total have plans to produce more fossil fuels between now and 2050, making their net zero goal unachievable but by skewing the definition of concepts such as net zero, they are fooling the public into thinking they are taking action to reduce their emissions to zero.
We helped Indigenous Torres Strait Islanders win their fight against the Australian Government
September saw an historic win for people and planet: a group of climate claimaints from the Torres Strait Islands won their human rights fight against the Australian Government. We supported the Islanders to bring the first ever human rights-based climate case to the UN and subsequently, the UN’s Human Rights Committee agreed that the government breached its human rights obligations. The win made international legal history.
We took the Belgian Government to court with nine locals
The UN recently recognised that everyone has a right to a healthy environment. If this is true, then we should also have the right to breathe clean and healthy air. So, following updates from the World Health Organisation showing that what we once thought were acceptable limits of air pollutions are now extremely outdated figures, we supported a group of Belgian residents in taking their government to court
We tackled plastic pollution in France
We issued legal warnings to nine companies, including Nestlé, Danone and McDonald’s over their plastic use. We joined forces with Surfrider Europe and Zero Waste France to put the food and retail giants on notice for inadequately addressing the risks related to the plastic pollution they produce.
We have asked them to respond to our concerns and fulfil their legal obligations under French law.
We challenged a new plastics project in court
After a two year legal battle over plans by petrochemicals company, INEOS, to build two new huge plastics manufacturing plants, we’ve finally gone to court over approval of the plans – approval that we believe the authorities granted illegally.
“Make no mistake, investments like Project One are the fossil fuel industry’s ‘Plan B’ - using fossil gas to make plastics is an attempt to keep the petrochemicals industry alive. This would be Europe’s largest plastics investment in decades."Tatiana Luján, Plastics lawyer
We took action to end overfishing
The EU has a fishing policy that sets out how much can be fished of each species, with the aim to protect populations and the marine environment. But this policy has been ignored again and again by EU member states, leading to drastic overfishing. This means fish populations are declining faster than they can breed. So we took action against the EU, demanding that they review their fishing limits and bring them in line with scientific advice.
We went to court to stop intensive farming poisoning drinking water in Italy
In our first official agriculture case, we took legal action against Italian authorities around the Lake Vico, which is being wrecked by fertiliser run-off, killing nature and wildlife and rendering the water – normally used for public consumption – undrinkable.
This year saw climate commitments made by world leaders at COP27 – commitments that now need to be put into law and acted upon. At ClientEarth, we’ll continue to hold governments and businesses to account for their responsibilities to people and the planet, defend and protect nature and work towards a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
We achieve all of this with your support every day, so thank you.