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#ClimateJusticeThursday: Addressing the dearth of climate change litigation in Africa

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#ClimateJusticeThursday: Addressing the dearth of climate change litigation in Africa

Hello readers,

Welcome to #ClimateJusticeThursday on CleanbuildVoices!

The increasing urgency to combat climate change across the globe has resulted in the rapid increase of climate change litigation in recent years, especially in developed continents like the US and Europe.

This global increase has seen over 1,000 climate cases filed globally since 2015 compared to 834 cases filed from 1986 to 2014.

Although climate change litigation covers a variety of proceedings, it is generally defined as claims that expressly raise an issue of fact or law relating to the causes or impacts of climate change.

Climate change litigation primarily focused on claims and compensation for damages caused by large oil and gas companies, mainly pollution (read: emission of GHG) in the course of producing and distributing their products. But consequently, the scope of climate change claims is being increased to incorporate claims for relief other than damages as well as rights-based claims.

However, for a continent like Africa, the reverse is the case as only a few climate change-related cases have been filed despite the continent being particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, as global warming is expected to increase droughts, desertification, and flooding across the continent.

The dearth of climate change litigation is based on a number of reasons. Firstly, many African countries have weak or functionally nonexistent legislative frameworks in relation to climate change.

Secondly, prospective claimants in these countries often face obstacles, such as a lack of standing and limited access to financial resources to fund their claims.

While there are ongoing efforts to improve the legislative frameworks, and civil society activism is growing in many African countries, climate change is not typically regarded as a standalone issue, but rather a secondary consideration in broader environmental disputes concerning issues such as land use, natural resources conservation and environmental protection in general.

The good news is that the situation is unlikely to remain this way as litigation recent developments in climate change-related litigation in Europe are likely to influence the future of climate change-related disputes in Africa. This development would cause a notable rise in the number of strategic claims now intending to influence government policies and corporate investment decisions.

The growing number of African nations that are seeking to introduce specific climate change legislation such as human rights which considers the increasing acceptance of the impacts of climate change on health, livelihoods, access to clean water, and other fundamental rights, as well as climate change-related litigation concerning economic activity or detrimental effects in African countries, could further drive this development.

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