Several California municipalities are merging their climate deception litigation with the state’s climate case, to jointly pursue a super-sized lawsuit against the fossil fuel industry, according to recent court filings. This development comes as Chicago joins the growing list of U.S. municipalities suing the fossil fuel industry. On February 5, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Charles S. Treat approved California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s petition to link the state’s climate accountability case with lawsuits brought by the counties of Marin, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz, and the cities of Imperial Beach, Richmond, and Santa Cruz.
Not many eras in modern U.S. history have been as turbulent for activists as the last 18 months. Grassroots organizers have had to contend with a lingering pandemic, increasingly unstable geopolitics and signs that Earth’s ecological systems are finally paying us back for decades of abuse. For the climate movement in particular, it’s been a confusing time with unprecedented wins juxtaposed against a backdrop of worsening planetary crises. I had the chance to reflect deeply on these realities while preparing an updated edition of “Movement Makers: How Young Activists Upended the Politics of Climate Change” — a book that distills inspirational moments and lessons from more than two decades of youth-led climate organizing in the United States.
For the second time in four months, climate activists have gathered at the headquarters of Havas London to protest the ad agency’s relationship with Shell. According to the group, Extinction Rebellion or XR, Thursday’s protest was spurred by a whistleblower’s tip-off that Havas would be meeting with Shell to discuss new work for the fossil fuel giant. The trade publication Campaign recently reported that Shell’s global PR account is up for review this quarter. Caroline from Scientists for XR said that the group received a positive reception from Havas employees, “who are by and large young creatives.”
Twelve years after he sued two climate deniers for defamation, climate scientist Michael Mann took the stand during the second week of the trial against them in Washington, D.C. Mann’s testimony painted a picture of a respected and accomplished scientist and academic who has been deeply hurt, personally and professionally, by accusations of scientific deception. In 2012, Rand Simberg and Mark Steyn publicly accused Mann, then a professor at Penn State University, of scientific misconduct and fraud. Both Simberg — an adjunct scholar at the far-right think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has a track record of platforming climate science deniers — and Steyn —a blogger and then-frequent guest on Fox News — challenged Mann’s climate research, and likened the situation to the sexual predator scandal that shook Penn State earlier that year.
When Royal Dutch Shell lost a landmark climate lawsuit in The Netherlands, climate advocates said the Dutch court’s ruling put polluters and their financiers on notice. Now, the Dutch NGO that successfully sued Shell over its climate plans is taking those financial backers to court in a case that could help reverse the global banking sector’s support of fossil fuel firms and their activities. On January 19, Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) announced it is initiating legal action against ING, the Netherlands’ largest bank and a major funder of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG). In a letter addressed to ING CEO Steven van Rijswijk and the first step in litigation, Milieudefensie says it believes the bank is in breach of its “duty of care” obligation under Dutch law.
A defamation lawsuit 12 years in the making brought by climate scientist Michael Mann opened January 18th in Washington, D.C. Superior Court. The two conservative commentators accused of defamation mounted separate defenses, and both continued to disparage Mann during the first day of this long-anticipated trial. The case centers around statements made in 2012 by right-wing blogger Rand Simberg and Fox TV personality Mark Steyn that attacked Mann, a scientist and professor who holds a doctorate from Yale. Simberg is an analyst at the far-right think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has a long track record of platforming climate science denialists.
A federal trial court judge in Oregon has rejected the US government’s latest attempts to quash the constitutional climate case Juliana v. United States, once again allowing the youth-led civil rights lawsuit to advance to trial. In a ruling issued on December 29, 2023, US District Judge Ann Aiken denied the government defendants’ motions to dismiss and to further stall the litigation as well as their request to bring another pre-trail appeal. Aiken’s ruling also orders the parties to arrange a pre-trial conference to discuss next steps including scheduling a trial date. The case had been previously slated to start trial five years ago on October 29, 2018, but the government’s extraordinary and repeated obstruction tactics derailed the trial and ultimately resulted in a federal appeals court ordering the case be dismissed in January 2020.
Climate litigation had a momentous year in 2023. Courts worldwide heard evidence and arguments at pivotal trials and hearings. Landmark rulings marked progress in holding governments to account for climate inaction or denial, and new climate cases continued to be filed. With climate lawsuits now totaling nearly 2,500 worldwide, it is clear that courts have become a critical venue for seeking climate justice and accountability. Here are some of this year’s highlights. In a groundbreaking ruling in August, Judge Kathy Seeley of the First Judicial District Court of Montana found in Held v. State of Montana that the state’s ongoing support for and promotion of fossil fuel development — including directing state regulators not to consider a project’s climate impacts during the permitting process — violated Montana’s constitutional guarantee of the right to a clean and healthful environment, which extends to a stable climate.
A federal appeals court in Canada breathed new life into a youth-led constitutional climate lawsuit against the Canadian government, allowing it to proceed towards trial on a narrower scope and partially reversing the trial court’s ruling that the entire case should be tossed. In its opinion issued on December 13, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal determined that one part of the legal claims asserted in the case was viable and that a trial would help assess whether that claim violates the constitution. Initially filed in 2019 by 15 young Canadians, La Rose v. His Majesty the King alleges Canada’s policies and actions that perpetuate fossil fuels and worsen the climate crisis amount to violations of youths’ fundamental rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Milan, Italy — For many years, transnational movements like “Fridays for Future” or “Extinction Rebellion” have tried to push governments to comply with the 1.5 C climate threshold set in 2015 by the Paris Agreement, yet activists believe not enough has changed. The struggles against mega-projects — be it coal mines, pipelines, motorways, train lines, construction for Olympic games, or water privatization — are still happening in every continent, and many are crying out for an immediate reaction to a dystopian future. One such reaction happened in October in Milan, Italy: The World Congress for Climate Justice (WCCJ).
The UK advertising watchdog has banned two adverts for Toyota SUVs, ruling that images of cars racing over plains and through rivers condoned a style of off-road driving that “disregarded” the impact on nature. Climate advocates calling for tighter rules on advertising of heavily polluting products welcomed the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) move — the first time it had banned SUV ads for promoting driving that harms the environment. The adverts “had not been prepared with a sense of responsibility to society,” the regulator found in a ruling published on Wednesday, made in response to a complaint by campaign groups.
Platform cooperatives have emerged as a recent alternative to capitalist platforms. By bringing the cooperative principles online, they have positioned themselves within the rich heritage of the two hundred years of cooperative movement history. However, they have also inherited the burden of its unresolved problems. In fact, as Yochai Benkler (2017) has eloquently stated, cooperativism has not played a transformative role in the past two centuries of capitalism. The path to proving that platform cooperatives can have a transformative role, putting an end to the obscene inequalities and forms of exploitation of the digital economy, may require revisiting the roots of cooperative identity and addressing its obstacles.
Communities all over the world are struggling and resisting the impacts of multiple crises. At a time of intensifying climate impacts and speculative increases of food and energy prices, governments, particularly in the Global South, are responding to unsustainable public debts and the lack of development and climate finance, with a rising wave of austerity, subjugation and extractivism. We vehemently denounce the role of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that, together with other private and public lenders, perpetuate a flawed international financial architecture that exacerbates debt, climate, and economic crises, violating the basic needs and rights of millions of people and nature who have the least contribution, responsibility or control over these catastrophes.
Despite its name, ambition was largely lacking at mid-September’s Climate Ambition Summit at the United Nations in New York. Secretary General António Guterres asked nations to arrive at the session with concrete commitments for phasing out fossil fuels, observing in his opening remarks that “humanity has opened the gates of hell.” But the event was overshadowed by the major polluters who didn’t attend. Those absent included China, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which continue to expand oil and gas production. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak chose the very day of the summit to announce that his government will push off the deadlines for phase-outs of methane gas-burning boilers, as well as sales of new gasoline and diesel-fueled cars.
One year after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which Big Green groups hailed as a 'climate justice bill,' the truth is surfacing that this legislation is lining the pockets of the fossil fuel industry to the detriment of frontline, especially Black and Indigenous, communities. Clearing the FOG speaks to Anthony Rogers-Wright, a national racial and climate justice advocate, about the ways Joe Biden and the Democrats are failing to address the climate crisis and Big Green groups are turning away from climate justice to embrace Green Capitalism. Rogers-Wright also describes better alternatives to the Big Greens and where people can focus their efforts effectively to struggle for a just and livable future.