Europe better than U.S. for Climate Change Damage Lawsuits

TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2012

The debate on the compensation on climate change damages has so far been focussing on the legal situation in the United States and other common law states. This is due to the fact that most lawsuits have been launched there. is of the view that chances for success for victims of climate change are better in certain European states, namely in the Netherlands, in Sweden and, with some more uncertainty, in Poland. Victims of climate change anywhere in the world can take profit from this. According to a regulation of the European Union, victims anywhere in the world can sue companies which have emitted CO2 in these states and which have their place of business there.

There are some reasons why we think that the law of these three states is a good alternative to the law of the U.S. or other common law states:
  • It seems that, according to the law of these three states, each tortfeasor who contributed to a damage is liable for the entire damage, even if he contributed to the damage only by a certain percentage (so-called joint and common liability). Assuming that this principle of law is applied to climate change litigation, CO2-polluters are not just liable for a part of the damage that corresponds to their (modest) share to the greenhouse gas effect, but for the entire damage. It is thus sufficient for the victim to sue one tortfeasor. The tortfeasor may sue the other tortfeasors to make them pay for their share of the damage.
  • The likelihood required for assuming causality is relatively low in the Netherlands and in Sweden. It is higher than 50 %, but not close to 100 % as in certain other European states (further discussed here). As scientist claim a likelihood of more than 90 % for certain types of climate damages, this likelihood threshold can be passed quite easily.
More information on companies which have a place of business in the Netherlands or in Sweden and which have been emitting CO2 there can be found in the link above. You may also wish to read general information onIdentifying potential defendants in climate damage litigation cases.

More information on the legal systems of these states can be found here:
For the Netherlands:

For Sweden:

The information provided on this page and on in general is not to be seen as legal advice. It is provided for free with the goal of promoting climate damage compensation worldwide. For this reason, we do not accept any liability with regard to the correctness and completeness of the information provided here. Please note in particular that the assessments made on are based on scientific legal and other information provided by other authors (mostly lawyers). These sources are explicitly mentioned. Readers who envisage launching a lawsuit should study these sources as first hand information and should use information provided on only as a means to identify relevant sources.

Special information for (lawyers of) victims of climate change residing in Brazil or in India: It might be that the law of Brazil and of India is (even) more favourable to the victims of climat change than the law of the Netherlands and of Sweden. Under applicable law of the European Union, you may opt for the application of your domestic law instead of the law of these two states!

Warning: After publishing this article, we heard that there might be an obstacle to climate change compensation claims under European jurisdictions, see the article “Contribution threshold for joint and common liability under European jurisdictions?

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