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Just Transition Litigation in Latin America: Sabin Center Launches New Report

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Maria Antonia Tigre is a global climate litigation fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, and an author on the new report.

Just transition litigation is a novel and under-researched field. Today, the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law — an affiliate of the Columbia Climate School — launched a new report that analyzes 20 just transition cases from Latin America. The report fills an important gap in existing research by increasing the visibility of affirmative actions for just transition from the Global South and improving our understanding of the phenomenon of just transition litigation through novel developments in Latin America specifically. Based on the analysis, the report:

  • Proposes a definition of the concepts of just transition and just transition litigation through the different dimensions and affected persons that play a role in how cases may play out;
  • Sets out an initial categorization of just transition litigation;
  • Identifies the human rights arguments posed by plaintiffs in just transition litigation and, when available, how these have been received by courts;
  • Analyzes how justice arguments and climate arguments are advanced in just transition litigation;
  • Makes an initial assessment of the remedies available to plaintiffs in just transition litigation;
  • Proposes a research agenda for future investigation.

To achieve the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, countries need to rapidly reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and scale up the use of cleaner alternatives. The scope of transformations needed is profound, wide-ranging, and likely to affect many aspects of everyday life. In the process of dismantling fossil fuel sectors, including its infrastructure, industries, and mining sites, laid-off workers and affected communities will require support. This is part of the just transition. A just energy transition requires that everyone must be able to reap the benefits and participate effectively and inclusively. Decarbonization policies may result in (new) “winners and losers,” especially if the burdens and benefits of renewable energy production and consumption are unfairly distributed. Within this context, it comes as no surprise that just transition litigation is arising, questioning how these burdens and benefits of decarbonization policies and projects are distributed.

Building on the specialized literature that observes a rise in litigation seeking more ambitious climate change policies across the Global South (so-called “pro-regulatory” climate litigation), the Sabin Center published a report today considering the rise of just transition litigation in Latin America.

The report, entitled Just Transition Litigation in Latin America: an initial categorization of climate litigation cases amid the energy transition, was written by Maria Antonia Tigre (Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School), Lorena Zenteno (University of Edinburgh, rapporteur for Chile), Marlies M.E. Hesselman (University of Groningen, rapporteur for the Netherlands and UN Special Procedures), Natalia Urzola (Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment, rapporteur for Colombia), Pedro Cisterna-Gaete (University of Edinburgh, rapporteur for the Inter-American System of Human Rights), Riccardo Luporini (Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, rapporteur for Italy).

Read the report here.

The Sabin Center will hold a webinar presenting the findings of the report on January 31, 2023.

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

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