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Litigating the Impacts of Climate Change: The Challenge of Legal Polycentricity

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This article uses Lon Fuller’s theory of polycentric cases to highlight the major challenges of litigating the consequences of climate change and the problems this poses for judges. It argues that a typical climate change case is a polycentric case par excellence and uses for illustration case studies where policy makers are sued before domestic courts to compel improved or more ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The cases that are applied for comparative analysis include the Friends of the Earth Case in Canada, the Urgenda Case in Holland, the Leghari Case in Pakistan, and the Greenpeace Petition in the Philippines. It concludes that with its implications for regulatory policy, meta-territoriality and range of persons/institutions that may be impacted by one adjudication, climate litigation usually poses the same kinds of legal questions regardless of the legal context.

Affiliations: 1: Post-Doctoral Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; LL.B. (Abia, Nigeria), LL.M. (CEU, Budapest), Ph.D. (Osgoode Hall, Toronto)


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