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International Climate Change Litigation and the Negotiation Process

Climate-vulnerable developing nations could use international law to break the current dead-lock in the inter-governmental negotiations on climate change by taking industrialized nations to court.

A large part of the relevant legal literature suggests that the main polluting nations can be held responsible under international law for the harmful effects of their greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, affected countries may have a substantive right to demand the cessation of a certain amount of emissions. In selected cases, they also have the procedural means to pursue an inter-state litigation in an international judicial forum such as the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

This paper by Christoph Schwarte, Staff Lawyer at FIELD (Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development), outlines a possible legal argument for such a lawsuit and offers some observations on the potential impacts of bringing a case before an international court or tribunal.

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