People are making use of nearly every possible mechanism to try to cajole, convince, pressure, or force governments into adopting plans that are ambitious enough to avoid dangerous climate change.
One possible avenue of remedy is lawsuits, like when the Urgenda Foundation convinced a Dutch court to require the government to tighten its 2020 emission reduction target.
In October, The Economist reported:
The state of New York filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil, claiming that it misled investors about the risk that regulations on climate change posed to its business. The suit alleges that the oil company “built a façade to deceive” how it measured the risk and frequently did not apply the “proxy cost” of carbon, which accounts for expected future events, to its decisions.
There are attractive and unattractive features to using the courts. On the plus side, they may be more open to evidence than politicians, who are generally loathe to do anything that might threaten jobs or economic growth in the near term. The biggest limitation is probably the courts aren’t policy-makers and defer to legislatures to actually design government policy. Also, because both the causes and the effects of climate change are spread across space and time it’s impossible to say that emissions from source X caused consequence Y. Also, since the people harmed are all around the world and largely in the future there is no court that can hear petitions from all of them.
That said, there is cause for hope that lawsuits will be part of an effective path forward and a means to hold governments to account when they want to claim to be climate champions while simultaneously favouring and protecting emitting industries.