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U.S. “Climate Litigation” Increasingly Prevalent

Analysis by Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley

Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley

A recent report jointly produced by the London School of Economics, Columbia Law School and the Center for Climate Change Economics and Policy analyzed litigation data worldwide to look at where and how so called “climate related cases” were being filed.

Somewhat surprisingly, the United States is the worldwide leader in these types of cases. In fact, since 1986, U.S. litigants are responsible for 70% of these cases filed globally. In fact, as a comparison, there have been 1,590 of these types of cases filed in the United States, where in the same time period there has been 102 filed in the United Kingdom and 35 in Canada. 

Who is actually bringing these cases, and how are they being decided? Well, the majority of the cases are being filed by non-governmental organizations. In the United States, nearly 70% of these cases have been filed by NGOs and 13% by trade associations. Additionally, the authors went through and studied the outcome of these cases and looking at some 549 in particular — over 55% of the cases were decided favorably to the litigant.  

This is important given the prevalence of the filings and the growing strategic nature in which they are being filed. More and more often these cases are being filed in a coordinated and strategic way within the United States in order to target fossil fuel infrastructure, not necessarily to go after the individual merit of a particular project.

This fact has led to the significant permitting slowdowns we have seen in recent years that are slowing the building of energy infrastructure of all kinds. Litigation reform will be a necessary component of any future permitting reform package in an effort to curb many of these non-meritorious cases that are clogging the courts and threatening America’s energy expansion. 


World oil demand jumped by more than 3 million bpd in May compared to April. The increase was driven largely due to a demand surge in China as well as other significant increases in India, Saudi Arabia and the United States. At the same time as global demand increased, world oil production actually decreased by 800,000 bpd due to lower production in Saudi Arabia, which began their scheduled cuts. Production in the United States and Canada dropped slightly partially attributed to the wildfires experienced in May. 

Tim Tarpley, Energy Workforce President, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.



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