Click here for the full human rights and climate change case chart, which tracks rights-based climate cases globally.

Casebook Studies

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Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights v. Uganda

A controversial new crude oil pipeline – the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (“EACOP”) – is slated to carry oil from Uganda to Tanzania for export to the international market. This pipeline is being built at precisely the time when we need – now more than ever – to keep fossil fuels in the ground. In order to prevent the additional greenhouse gas emissions that would result from this project and the host of other human rights harms it would generate, a group of African NGOs have filed a complaint against Uganda, Tanzania, and the East African Community in the East African Court of Justice. In the complaint, the plaintiffs argue, among other things, that the respondent governments’ approval of the pipeline project fails to comply with environmental and social assessment requirements and that the project itself would violate the human rights of local communities. The case is currently pending before the Court.

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Milieudefensie v. Royal Dutch Shell

In 2019, a group of NGOs and concerned citizens filed a complaint against the fossil fuel company Royal Dutch Shell in the Hague District Court, arguing that the company’s contributions to climate change violate both its duty of care under Dutch law and its international human rights obligations. In 2021, the Hague Court handed down a landmark decision: it found that found that there is indeed an unwritten standard of care with which Shell must comply and that the content of this standard of care is informed by, among other things, the best available science, the widespread international consensus that human rights can protect people from the impacts of dangerous climate change, and companies’ obligation to respect human rights. Though the case is currently on appeal, it has already made waves around the world, demonstrating that corporations can be held liable for their greenhouse gas emissions and be compelled to reduce them through litigation.