The Emerging Network of Transnational Climate Litigation

Steve Lorteau, Rakhyun E. Kim

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


In recent years, climate litigation has grown considerably in scope and diversity in many jurisdictions. Judicial decisions on issues of climate change refer to one another, mostly within one’s jurisdiction, but increasingly to decisions made in other jurisdictions. This practice has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, to the extent they create what one might call a transnational legal field in the form of climate litigation network. Yet, how has this network emerged and evolved? Which cases are most influential on a transnational stage, and why? How do norms flow and diffuse on the network? To address these questions, this study uncovers, for the first time, the network structure of the emerging climate litigation system, and conducts network analysis complemented by content analysis of individual litigation cases. The resulting climate litigation network consists of at least 800 national and international cases from 1990 to 2021 connected through roughly 2300 cross-references, and the network is growing rapidly. The study quantified the evolutionary dynamics, the relative influence of particular jurisdictions, and the cross-jurisdictional diffusion of climate litigation. This study reveals key conceptual and pedagogical insights into the growth of climate litigation and the canon of climate change jurisprudence. Notably, the global climate litigation has expanded considerably in the past decade, especially following the Paris Agreement. Much of the network relates to four themes: land use law, state regulatory shortcomings, constitutional law, and the EU Emissions Trading System. The network also provides empirical evidence of domestic and international norm diffusion. The United States, the European Court of Justice, and the United Kingdom account for most cross-references, but contribute to a comparatively small portion of transnational cross-references. In contrast, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand are major contributors to the transnational network. This study highlights the complex networked structure of climate change jurisprudence and the role of cascading legal precedents in shaping the future of climate litigation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
Event2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance: Governing accelerated transitions: justice, creativity, and power in a transforming world - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 20 Oct 202224 Oct 2022


Conference2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance


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