21 May 2019

South Africa: Is South Africa Ripe for a Climate Change Class Action Lawsuit?


The Netherlands is currently the site of the world's most advanced class action climate change lawsuit, with 900 citizens partnered with the Urgenda Foundation winning battle after battle in the courts as the Dutch government appeals each loss. Similar actions are well underway in Canada, Ireland, the UK and the US. Is this something that will become necessary in South Africa, and what would it entail?

The 2018 version of the UN's IPCC report warned that we have just 12 years to limit devastating climate change. That means we need to pull out all the stops, and will inevitably include approaching the courts to compel reluctant agencies to align with this need.

South Africans can be forgiven for having doubts that there is sufficient political will to tackle the issue with any serious intent. This publication and various other forums saw a dissection of a number of political party manifestos leading up to the recently concluded 2019 elections. The understanding of, and commitment to, tackling climate change was at the very least deficient, and in some cases displayed a disturbing misunderstanding of the science.

While the issue receives negligible attention in headlining speeches and policy statements from the state, developments...

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