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Strategic climate litigation is a sharply increasing phenomenon.

In recent years, climate litigation has become an increasingly powerful instrument to enforce or enhance governments’ climate commitments. Since the success of the Urgenda case in the Netherlands, climate cases have been filed worldwide.

As with other strategic litigation, climate litigation uses the courtroom with the goal of creating broader changes in society. It involves many actors (NGOs; media; politicians) and has many nuanced and indirect consequences.

Climate Litigation influences the democratic process at a time when democracy is considered already widely in decline. It creates authoritative narratives, frames perceptions, and ‘legalises’ the debate.

Theoretical Framework to study the consequences for the democratic process

The ERC grant will fund the research of Christina Eckes and her team to develop the missing theoretical framework that captures the direct and indirect consequences of strategic climate litigation for the democratic process.

Based on multi-method case studies of strategic climate litigation in 4 national (Germany, France, Netherlands & UK) and 2 European jurisdictions (EU & European Court of Human Rights), Eckes will address the questions:

  • How does strategic climate litigation affect the democratic process?
  • How could its (neglected) democratic potential be realised?

The research guides the involved actors on how to navigate through the complex legal opportunity structures in light of strategic climate litigations’ interaction with the democratic process. By shedding light on the nuanced democratic implications of strategic climate litigation, the project contributes to enabling democracies to address the climate emergency itself.