Menu Search through site content What are you looking for?
Menu

Climate litigation continues to evolve in Australia

  • Market Insight 22 December 2022 22 December 2022
  • Americas, Asia Pacific, UK & Europe

  • Insurance 2023 - the year ahead

State governments and large corporates will be held to account on climate related pledges

With already one of the highest numbers of climate litigation cases globally, Australia will see a growing number of climate litigation cases in 2023. In the last year, it has already seen several landmark decisions across the climate litigation landscape and there are four areas where we expect to see more.

The first is greenwashing. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission issued its first greenwashing fine to Tlou Energy in October 2022 and has just issued three infringement notices to investment manager Vanguard Investments Australia Ltd in further action against alleged greenwashing.

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility has begun proceedings against Santos, a global energy company, alleging that it made false and misleading claims about producing clean energy. And the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is also taking steps in tackling greenwashing. We will continue to see a rise in litigation raised by shareholders and activists in relation to greenwashing and ESG commitments made by companies. It is increasingly a high-risk area for directors and officers if there is failure to disclose or meet disclosure obligations.

The second is challenges to corporate governance by shareholder actions for failure to consider and address climate risk. There is less focus on monetary compensation but rather litigation towards regulation and or accountability of corporations.

The third is challenges to the validity of approvals for fossil fuel projects such as Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland. For example, in November Queensland's Land Court rejected a bid by Clive Palmer's Waratah Coal to develop Australia's largest thermal coal mine in the Galilee Basin, due to the human rights and climate change impacts of the proposal. Projects requiring government approval and corporations may face legal action by third parties who allege these projects will negatively affect the climate.

Going forward, construction projects may only be approved with contractual climate change obligations in mind. However, they may be liable for negligence (pending future cases) regarding a duty of care to address climate change risks

The fourth is human rights where we may see a rise in arguments over duty of care obligations. In September 2021, the UN Human Rights Committee found that Australia had violated the human rights of Torres Islanders because they had failed to protect them from the impact of climate change.

As we go into 2023, the number of climate litigation cases in Australia is set to ramp up.

View all our Insurance 2023 Predictions here

End

Stay up to date with Clyde & Co

Sign up to receive email updates straight to your inbox!