2020 Business responsibility Deciding Body Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation France Keywords Paris Agreement Rights at stake State concerned Year

Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. Total

Along with 13 municipalities and four other NGOs, the French environmental organization Notre Affaire à Tous requested the oil company Total to take measures to prevent human rights and environmental violations. After a meeting with Total in June 2019, the complainants issued a “mise en demeure” (a letter of formal notice) to the oil giant that is responsible for more than two-thirds of France’s greenhouse gas emissions. They granted Total three months to include reasonable greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in its “due diligence plan” before they would file a lawsuit.   

On 28 January 2020, the complainants asked the District Court of Nanterre to order Total to align its practices with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to the complainants, Total has not provided sufficient detail in its “vigilance plan” to reduce its emissions and that the company is still not in compliance with international climate agreements, such as the 2015 Paris Agreement. Among other requests, the complainants ask the Court to order Total to reduce its net emissions by 40% by 2040 (compared to 2019).

Total claimed that the Nanterre District Court lacked jurisdiction and requested that the case be brought before the Commercial Court. On 11 February 2021, the pre-trial judge rejected this request and confirmed the jurisdiction of the District Court. In order to settle this dispute, the Versailles Court of Appeal confirmed the District Court’s jurisdiction and based its decision on “the legislator’s intention to entrust actions relating to ecological damage to specially designated judicial courts only.”

Rights invoked:
The complainants argued that Total’s obligation to take measures to prevent human rights and environmental violations stems from the Law on the Duty of Vigilance of 27 March 2017. This law obliges a company to establish a detailed “vigilance plan” which identifies and seeks to mitigate the risks to human rights, fundamental freedoms, the environment, and public health that may result directly or indirectly from a company’s activities.

Date of decision:

Suggested case citation:
Nanterre District Court, Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. Total SA, complaint of 28 January 2020.

Links :
For the full complaint (in French), see here.

For an unofficial translation of the complaint (in English), see here.

For the order confirming the jurisdiction of the Nanterre District Court (in French), see here.

2020 Children and young people Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Indigenous peoples' rights Standing/admissibility United States of America

Juliana et al. v. USA et al.

On 12 August 2015, the case of Juliana v. the United States was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. The 21 young plaintiffs in this case, who were represented by the NGO “Our Children’s Trust”, asserted that the government had violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property through its climate change-causing actions. Moreover, they stated that the government had failed to protect essential public trust resources by encouraging and permitting the combustion of fossil fuels. The Court of Appeal held that the plaintiff’s requested remedies should be addressed by the executive and legislative branches rather than by the courts. At present, the youth plaintiffs are planning to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court or to settle discussions with the Biden-Harris administration.

Court’s decision:
U.S. District Court of Oregon Judge Ann Aiken declined to dismiss the lawsuit. She ruled that access to a clean environment constitutes a fundamental right. Judge Aiken’s judgment was reversed by a Ninth Circuit Panel due to the plaintiffs’ lack of standing to sue. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recognized the gravity of the evidence on the plaintiffs’s injuries from climate change. The panel of judges recognized the existence of harms to the applicants, and the plausibility of arguing that these harms had been caused by climate change. Nevertheless, the Court held that the plaintiffs’ requested remedies should be addressed by the executive and legislative branches and not by the courts. One of the three judges affirmed the plaintiff’s constitutional climate rights in a dissent.

Date of decision:
17 January 2020

Further reading:
The full text of the Ninth Circuit’s order on interlocutory appeal is available here.

Suggested citation:
Juliana and Others v. the United States and Others, 947 F.3d 1159 (9th Cir. 2020).

2019 Climate-induced displacement Human Rights Committee New Zealand Non-refoulement Prohibition of torture Right to life

Ioane Teitiota v. New Zealand


The applicant submitted that New Zealand had violated his right to life under the ICCPR by removing him to Kiribati, an island state where, he submitted, the situation was becoming increasingly unstable and precarious due to sea level rise caused by global warming. The HRC accepted the claim that sea level rise and climate change-related harms can trigger non-refoulement obligations, but found that there is still time to take measures to protect the population of Kiribati.


Concerning the imminence of the risk faced, the Committee noted that the author was not alleging a hypothetical future harm, but a real predicament caused by a lack of potable water and employment possibilities, and a threat of serious violence caused by land disputes. The author had sufficiently demonstrated, for the purpose of admissibility, the existence of a real risk of harm to his right to life, given the impact of climate change and associated sea level rise on the habitability of Kiribati and on the security situation on the islands.


The HRC found that environmental degradation can compromise the effective enjoyment of the right to life, and if severe it can violate that right. The Committee accepted the author’s claim that sea level rise is likely to render Kiribati uninhabitable. Without robust national and international efforts, the effects of climate change in receiving States may expose individuals to a violation of articles 6 or 7 ICCPR, thereby triggering the non-refoulement obligations of sending States. However, it noted that the time frame of 10 to 15 years, as suggested by the author, could allow for intervening acts by Kiribati, with the assistance of the international community, to take affirmative measures to protect and, where necessary, relocate its population.

Remedies ordered:


Separate opinions:


Implementation measures taken:



24 October 2019

Status of case:


Suggested case citation:

Human Rights Committee, Ioane Teitiota v. New Zealand, No. 2728/2016, Communication of 24 October 2019.

Full text:

For the full-text of the decision in the case, click here.

Further reading:

Adaena Sinclair-Blakemore, ‘Teitiota v New Zealand: A Step Forward in the Protection of Climate Refugees under International Human Rights Law?’ Oxford Human Rights Hub, 28th January 2020, available here.


climate refugees, affectedness, non-refoulement

2019 Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Non-discrimination Pakistan Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to a healthy environment Right to life Uncategorized Vulnerability

Maria Khan et al. v. Federation of Pakistan et al.

Five people identifying themselves as women filed a writ petition, under Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan, against the Federation of Pakistan, the Ministry of Climate Change, the Ministry of Energy, the Alternative Energy Development Board, and the Central Power Purchasing Agency. The petitioners alleged a violation of their fundamental rights, recognized by Articles 4 (inalienable rights), 9 (right to life), 14 (right to privacy) and 25 (equality of citizens, notably regardless of sex) of the Constitution of Pakistan, as the respondents infringed their right to a clean and healthy environment and a climate capable of sustaining human life (as recognized in the Leghari v. Pakistan case) by failing to take climate change mitigation measures, and specifically measures to develop renewable energy resources and transition to a low-carbon economy.

The petitioners highlighted that Pakistan had ratified the Paris Agreement and submitted its INDC, committing to a reduction of 20% of its 2030 projected GHG emissions, but then failed to engage in any renewable energy power project. This was seen to represent an abdication of the respondents’ responsibilities under the Public Trust Doctrine (namely their duty to act as trustees of the natural resources of the country), and a violation of the jurisprudence of the seized Court on environmental and climate justice.

Notably, the petitioners claimed that being women and mothers, they are particularly endangered by global warming and disadvantaged in the context of the climate crisis, as documented in scientific research and international reports. Therefore, the respondents have allegedly violated Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan in that climate change disproportionately affects the rights of the petitioners and more broadly of all Pakistani women.

The remedies demanded by the petitioners are: the declaration of the violation of the above-mentioned fundamental rights and of the breach of Pakistan’s commitments under the Paris Agreement; the declaration of a positive duty on the respondents to encourage and support the development of renewable energy projects to reduce GHG emissions and mitigate climate change impacts; the order to implement and enforce the Paris Agreement to the fullest extent possible and to create and implement an integrated policy towards climate resilient development.

Date of filing:
14 February 2019, Misc. Writ 8960/19

Date of last hearing:
21 January 2021

High Court of Lahore, Pakistan


  • Petition (in English, via Sabin Center for Climate Change Law’s Global Climate Litigation Database)
  • Order (in English, via Sabin Center for Climate Change Law’s Global Climate Litigation Database)

More information:
Independently of the above-summarized judicial proceeding, on 21 July 2022, the Government of Pakistan adopted the “Climate Change Gender Action Plan of the Government and People of Pakistan” (you can read it here).

Last Updated:
18 May 2023

2019 Deforestation Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation India Paris Agreement Right to life

Riddhima Pandey v. Union of India and Others


The petitioner, Riddhima Pandey, a 9-year old girl residing in the Indian State of Uttarakhand, approached the National Green Tribunal (a special tribunal exercising jurisdiction over environmental cases) in order to review the State and concerned authorities’ inaction on mitigation measures in the face of climate science, and the systemic failure to implement environmental laws (in a manner that addresses climate change). The petitioner based her claim on the ground that the States duty to take the concerned climate action arose out of the public trust doctrine, which the Supreme Court of India has previously held to be based in fundamental rights, directive principles and the preamble of the Indian Constitution. The application in this case was explicitly inspired by the petition in Juliana v. US where also, the child petitioners invoked the public trust doctrine to contest the US government’s inaction.

The petitioner prayed for the court to, among other things, direct the concerned governmental authorities to properly account for the climate related impacts of industrial and infrastructure projects while granting environmental clearances, account for climate impacts of every individual case of forest diversion and ensuring sufficient compensatory afforestation, direct the government to prepare a national greenhouse gas emissions inventory as well as a national carbon budget against which particular projects’ emissions impacts could be assessed.

Date of decision:

15 January 2019

Tribunals decision:

The National Green Tribunal dismissed the case, reasoning that there is no reason to presume that the existing environmental legislations and regulations already address climate change and require that climate related impacts be sufficiently accounted for during environmental impact assessments.

Status of the case:


Suggested case citation:

National Green Tribunal (New Delhi, India), Ridhima Pandey v. Union of India and Others, Application No. 187/2017, judgment of 15 January 2019)

Case documents:

For the petition filed before the National Green Tribunal on 25 March 2017, click here.

For the order of the National Green Tribunal on 15 January 2019, click here.

2018 Biodiversity Domestic court Emissions reductions/mitigation Imminent risk Margin of appreciation Nepal Paris Agreement Right to a healthy environment Right to health Right to life Right to subsistence/food

Padam Bahadur Shrestha v. Office of Prime Minister and Others

The petitioner, Padam Bahadur Shrestha, had applied to the concerned authorities in Nepal to enact a separate law on climate change in August 2018, but did not receive a response. He thus filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Nepal alleging that the situation in Nepal is marked by absence of a special climate change legislation, inadequacies in existing environmental legislation in addressing climate change, and poor implementation of the State’s climate change policy. He argued that this suffices to establish a violation of the right to life, right to live in a healthy and clean environment, right to health care and right to food found in Articles 16, 30, 35, and 36 of the Nepali Constitution.

Date of decision:

25 December 2018

Court’s decision:

The Supreme Court of Nepal found that an amendment to the existing laws and introduction of a new consolidated law that addresses climate change was necessary and issued detailed directions on what features the new law must contain. It based this order on the reasons that such would facilitate Nepal’s compliance with its obligations under international law, including the Paris Agreement and that climate mitigation and adaptation directly concern fundamental rights including the right to life, right to have nutritious food and the right to a clean environment. It further held that although the Environmental Protection Act of 1997 addressed environmental protection along the dimension of climate change, its provisions were inadequate regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Status of the case:


Suggested case citation:

The Supreme Court of Nepal, Padam Bahadur Shreshta v Office of the Prime Minister and Others, NKP, Part 61, Vol. 3, judgment of 25 December 2018.

Case documents:

For the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nepal (in Nepali), click here.

For an unofficial English translation of the judgment (authored by Hardik Subedi), click here.

2018 Colombia Domestic court

DeJusticia (Rodríguez Peña and others) v. Colombia

On 5 April 2018, the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice ordered the protection of the Colombian Amazon from deforestation, ruling in favor of a group of 25 children and young people who had, with the support of advocacy organisation Dejusticia, contested the Colombian government’s failure to protect their rights to life, health and to a healthy environment with a tutela action. In its ruling, the Supreme Court also recognized the Amazon rainforest as a subject of rights.

The applicants in this case were 25 children and young people, aged between 7 and 25 years. They submitted that, in their lifetimes, the average temperature in Colombia is expected to increase by between 1.6°C and 2.14°C. They invoked the Paris Agreement and domestic law no. 1753 of 2015, which, they argued, require the government to reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, including a reduction to net zero of the rate of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon by 2020. Citing ongoing deforestation and the failure to reduce deforestation, they detailed the projected effects of that deforestation for local ecosystems and the wider environment.

The District Court that previously examined this case had found that a tutela action was not appropriate to this action because of the collective nature of the issue at hand. However, the Supreme Court found that a tutela can be filed where there is a connection between the violation of collective and individual rights if the person filing the tutela is directly affected, the violation of rights at stake is not hypothetical but clearly demonstrated, and the action sought is oriented towards restoring individual rights, and not collective ones.

Key findings:
The Supreme Court found that the fundamental rights to life, health, the minimum subsistence, freedom, and human dignity are connected to and dependent on the environment and healthy ecosystems. It held that the ongoing and increasing deterioration of the natural environment has severe impacts on current and future life and on fundamental rights. It also cited the decreasing ability to exercise the fundamental rights to water, clean air, and a healthy environment.

The Court noted that imminent dangers, such as rising temperatures, polar thawing, species extinction, and meteorological events and natural disasters had been clearly demonstrated. It considered that ecosystems are currently being exposed to existential threats that will lead to the exhaustion of natural resources, increasing difficulties for human subsistence and the pollution and change of the environment. It held that humanity is principally responsible for this scenario, because its hegemonic position on the planet has led to the adoption of an anthropocentric and self-centred model, with characteristic features that are detrimental to environmental stability (“la humanidad es la principal responsable de este escenario, su posición hegemónica planetaria llevo a la adoptación de un modelo antropocéntrico y egoísta, cuyos rasgos característicos son nocivos para la estabilidad ambiental“). These characteristics are i) excessive demographic growth; ii) an expedited approach to development guided by consumerism and existing political-economic systems; and iii) the excessive exploitation of natural resources.

The Court invoked the concept of social justice, and held that the protection of fundamental rights not only involves the individual, but also the “other.” This includes people in other nations as well as animal and plant species and future generations. In particular, it held that the environmental rights of future generations are based on the (i) ethical duty of intra-species solidarity and (ii) the intrinsic value of nature. Regarding the environmental rights of future generations, the Court discussed future violations by present-day omission, and the need to limit present generations’ freedom of action to ensure care and stewardship for natural resources and the future world.

Citing various international human rights and climate change instruments, the Court considered that the conservation of the Amazon is a national and global obligation, calling it the main environmental axis of the planet and the “lung of the world” (p. 30 of the judgment). It considered that the disputed policies lead to deforestation in the Amazon, causing short, medium, and long term imminent and serious damage to the applicants in the tutela action and to all inhabitants of Colombia, both present and future, because it leads to rampant carbon dioxide emissions and threatens native flora and fauna.

Invoking the principles of precaution, intergenerational equity, and solidarity, the Supreme Court concluded that there was no doubt that there is a risk of damage, given that the increase in GHG emissions resulting from deforestation in the Amazon rainforest would lead to estimated increases in Colombia’s temperature of up to 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The principle of solidarity meant that the Colombian State had a duty and shared responsibility to stop the causes of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation in the Amazon. This required the adoption of immediate mitigation measures to protect the right to a healthy environment.

Leaving a concrete response to the relevant authorities, the Supreme Court highlighted the urgent need to adopt mitigation and corrective measures to combat illegal agriculture and mining; establish an active state presence post-conflict; prevent and mitigate fires, deforestation, and the expansion of agriculture in the region; address the consequences of large constructing projects, property titling and mining concessions; address the expansion of large-scale farming; preserve this important ecosystem; redress the lack of scientific calculations concerning the release of tons of carbon through burning and the loss of biomass; and confront climate change related to the destruction of the Amazon.

Noting that the State had to date failed to take effective measures in this regard, the Court went on to declare that the Colombian Amazon was a subject of rights, and was per se entitled to protection, conservation, maintenance and restoration.

The Supreme Court held that the Colombian government had four months to present an action plan to reduce deforestation in the Amazon region.

Within five months, the Government was furthermore ordered to formulate an intergenerational pact for the life of the Colombian Amazon, with the active participation of the plaintiffs, affected communities, scientific organizations, environmental research groups, and interested population in general. This was to include measures aimed at reducing deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.

It also ordered all municipalities in the Colombian Amazon, within the five months, to update and implement Land Management Plans, including action plans to reduce deforestation to zero where appropriate.

Within forty-eight hours, the Government was ordered to intensify deforestation mitigation measures.

Supreme Court of Colombia

Date of decision:
5 April 2018

See also:
The original submission of DeJusticia (in Spanish) is available here.

The Supreme Court’s judgment (in Spanish) is available here.

Suggested citation:
Supreme Court of Colombia, DeJusticia (Rodríguez Peña and others) v. Colombia, Judgment of 5 April 2018, STC4360-2018, No. 11001-22-03-000-2018-00319-01, Luis Armando Tolosa Villabona (reporting judge).

2018 Adaptation Domestic court Farming Human dignity Pakistan Right to a healthy environment Right to life

Leghari v. Pakistan

In Leghari v. Pakistan, a farmer claimed that his fundamental rights, including the right to life, the right to a healthy environment and human dignity, had been violated by the failure to take action against climate change, which was already impacting Pakistan in the form of floods and other climactic changes. The High Court of Lahore granted his claims in 2015, finding that the government had failed to implement its own Climate Change Policy and the corresponding implementation framework. The Court created a Climate Change Commission to monitor the government’s response.

Arguments by the applicant:
The applicant submitted that the domestic National Climate Change Policy of 2012 and the Framework for its implementation had not been implemented. Absent strategies to transition to heat resilient crops or to conserve water, he argued, he would not be able to sustain his livelihood as a farmer. He submitted that this inaction had violated his fundamental rights, in particular, Article 9 (right to life, including the right to a healthy and clean environment) and Article 14 (human dignity) of the Constitution, along with the constitutional principles of social and economic justice. In doing so, he also invoked the principles of public trust, sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the principle of intergenerational equity. The most immediate and serious threat to Pakistan, he argued, concerned water, food and energy security.

The High Court of Lahore granted Mr. Leghari’s claims on 4 September 2015, finding that “the delay and lethargy of the State in implementing the Framework offend the fundamental rights of the citizens.” It ordered the government to nominate “climate change focal persons” to help ensure the implementation of the domestic legal Framework and to identify action points. To monitor the government’s progress, it also created a Climate Change Commission made up of government representatives, NGOs, and technical experts. A supplemental decision of 14 September 2015 nominated 21 Commission members and granted this body various powers. On 25 January 2018, the Court considered a report from the Climate Change Committee finding that, until January 2017, 66% of the Framework for Implementation Climate Change Policy’s priority actions had been implemented. The Court accordingly dissolved the Climate Change Commission, creating a Standing Committee on Climate Change in its place.

In the 2018 judgment, the Court considered the need for environmental, climate and water justice, and the need for both mitigation and, in the specific case of Pakistan, adaptation measures in response to climate change. It noted that “we have to move on. The existing environmental jurisprudence has to be fashioned to meet the needs of something more urgent and overpowering i.e., Climate Change.” (para. 12). It held, too, that “[f]rom Environmental Justice, which was largely localized and limited to our own ecosystems and biodiversity, we have moved on to Climate Justice.” (para. 20).

Further reading:
Birsha Ohdedar, ‘Climate Change Litigation in India and Pakistan: Analyzing Opportunities and Challenges’, in Ivano Alogna, Christine Bakker, and Jean-Pierre Gauci (eds), Climate Change Litigation: Global Perspectives (Brill | Nijhoff 2021), 103-123,

Ivan Mark Ladores, ‘In the Name of Climate Change: How Leghari v Federation of Pakistan is Instrumental to the Pursuit of the Right to Life in the Philippines’, 5(2) Groningen Journal of International Law (2017),

Emily Barritt and Boitumelo Sediti, ‘The Symbolic Value of Leghari v Federation of Pakistan: Climate Change Adjudication in the Global South’ 30(2) King’s Law Journal (2019) 203-210, 10.1080/09615768.2019.1648370.

Suggested citation:
Lahore High Court, Asghar Leghari v. Pakistan, Case W.P. No. 25501/2015, Judgment of 25 January 2018.

2006 Biodiversity Emissions reductions/mitigation Extraterritorial obligations Freedom of movement Indigenous peoples' rights Inter-American Human Rights System Private and family life Right to culture Right to health Right to property Right to subsistence/food United States of America

Sheila Watt-Cloutier et al. v. the United States of America

Filed in 2005 by members of the Inuit people living in Canada, this application concerned the climate change-related responsibility of the United States of America. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights refused to examine the case on the grounds that the information provided was insufficient.

More information on the petition:
In this petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuk woman and Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference living in Canada, sought relief from human rights violations related to climate change caused by the acts and omissions of the United States. Ms. Watt-Cloutier, on behalf of herself, 62 other individuals, and all of the Inuit of the arctic regions of the United States of America and Canada, sought relief against the effects of climate change, which — it was argued — have the potential to affect every aspect of the life of the Inuit people, including the quality of the permafrost, land and water, biodiversity and food sources, and cultural rights. The petitioners relied on the United States’ obligations under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and other instruments that shape these obligations under the Declaration, including the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

This case was extraterritorially framed: it was brought by Inuit people living in Canada, but against the United States of America for its climate change-related human rights impacts. The petitioners argued that the acts and omissions by the United States had violated the Inuit’s rights to the benefits of culture, to property, to the preservation of health, life, physical integrity, security, and a means of subsistence, and to residence, movement, and inviolability of the home under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and other international instruments.

On 16 November 2006, the Commission refused to consider the petition because it considered that it had provided insufficient information. Specifically, it found that the petition did not “enable us [the Commission] to determine whether the alleged facts would tend to characterize a violation of rights protected by the American Declaration”.

The Commission held a hearing in 2007 concerning the case, however it did not revisit its decision not to examine the complaints made.

Inter-American Commission of Human Rights

Date filed:
7 December 2005

Suggested citation:
IACHR, Sheila Watt-Cloutier et al. v. USA, petition rejected on 7 December 2005

Full text of the petition:
The text of the petition is available at Click here to access it.

The video of the 2007 hearing is available here.

Further information:
For more on this petition, see:

Agnieszka Szpak, ‘Arctic Athabaskan Council’s petition to the Inter-American Commission on human rights and climate change—business as usual or a breakthrough?’ 162 Climatic Change (2020) 1575–1593.