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Suing government for not being green enough? How climate change lawsuits work

Did you know that it's possible to take legal action against climate change?

In the Netherlands, about 900 citizens have taken the Dutch government to court as part of a class action climate change lawsuit.

Similar actions are also underway in the UK, Ireland, Canada, and the US.

But what about here in South Africa? How likely is it that citizens would similarly galvanize to hold government to account over its climate change policies and what would be their chances of success?

Attorney Brandon Abdinor says for now the likelihood of a class action largely depends on the government.

The proof of the pudding depends on what action actually gets taken. Are they going to be putting in emissions reduction targets, proper adaptation measures, and if not, I think the citizens probably have a cause of action to take them to task.

Brandon Abdinor, Attorney

Globally what happens is that a group of citizens get together and partner with an NGO...and they work together to get the class action certified.

Brandon Abdinor, Attorney

But what would form the basis of such legal challenge?

You could sue government for not taking appropriate action, for example, not doing enough to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, or for taking action which will make climate change worse.

Brandon Abdinor, Attorney

To date, more than 1 300 climate change lawsuits have been bought globally, with the majority taking place in the US, Australia, the UK and Europe.

Click below to hear the complete interview:


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