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Climate Justice

The Dark Side Of Biden’s ‘Climate Justice’ Agenda

President Biden recently issued a 5,400-word executive order directing all federal agencies to emphasize “environmental justice” in every decision they make. After ducking questions for weeks on what remediation, remuneration, and environmental justice the administration is providing East Palestine, Ohio,…


Climate lawsuits against major polluters linked with fall in their stock prices: Study

Big emitters hurt the most by new cases and unfavourable verdicts in climate litigation

The civil society holding polluting companies accountable for causing climate change has not only helped grant climate justice but also changed how investors perceive these companies. A new working paper is the first to quantify this impact. 

The analysis found that company share prices dropped in the days following a fresh climate lawsuit or a negative court verdict, news organisation The Guardian reported.

The report was based on a working paper by the The Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science. 

The researchers looked at how the market reacted to 108 lawsuit filings and verdicts against 98 companies listed in the United States and Europe from 2005 and 2021.

They found that “climate litigation filings or unfavourable court decisions reduced firm value by -0.41 per cent on average”.

Companies that emit the most, termed ‘Carbon Majors’ in the study, were affected the most, the findings showed. Their value dropped by -0.57 per cent following a new lawsuit against them and by -1.50 per cent after an unfavourable judgement. These companies include those operating in energy, utilities and materials sectors. 

They also identified another major factor that hurt market sentiments the most: New cases including “a new form of legal argument or in a jurisdiction that has not previously seen a case”.

A similar trend was not seen for cases that are not Carbon Majors, the authors wrote. 

Over a three-day window from the day before, or and after the filing, new cases led to an abnormal decrease in share prices by -0.35 per cent, the report noted.

During the study period, the number of climate litigation in a year grew to over 200 from 10. The first case of climate ligitation against a corporation was in 1995. Though the initial cases were unsuccessful, they garnered the necessary attention to historical emissions and climate injustice. 

A couple of such cases mentioned by the authors are: Comer vs Murphy Oil (2005), where residents and property owners from the Mississippi Gulf Coast sought damages related to Hurricane Katrina and Kivalina vs Exxon (2008) where coastal Alaskan residents facing the threat of a rising sea level filed a case seeking financial damages for the potential relocation. 

In the second decade of the millennium, climate litigation picked pace, driven by an explosive analysis of carbon emissions by 90 fossil fuel and cement producers by Richard Heede published in 2014 as well as the Paris Agreement the following year. 

A growing number of verdicts against the polluting companies also encouraged the civil society to become more litigious in their fight against climate change. “For example in 2017, in Lliuya vs RWE, a German appeals court deemed as admissible a Peruvian farmer’s claim that higher water levels near his farm were caused by carbon emissions from RWE,” the analysts wrote. 

The verdict against Royal Dutch Shell mandating the company to nearly halve its carbon emissions by 2030 also inspired the public, according to the authors of the report. 

“We find consistently larger and statistically significant effects after 2019, of all filings (-0.34 per cent), filings against Carbon Majors (-0.55 per cent) and negative decisions (-1.55 per cent), suggesting capital markets are increasingly responding to climate litigation,” they added. 

The cost of such cases, especially for the large emitters, is much more than the average cost of defending a major litigation case, the authors found. “The average economic cost of a negative decision is $360 million,” they observed.

This can lead to lower cash flows and reputational risks, thereby hurting the overall market value of the companies, they added. 

The researchers hope their research will induce lenders, financial regulators and governments to consider climate litigation risk as a relevant financial risk in the current scenario. 

Voices against environmental degradation by coporates is growing louder by the day. Just this week, the annual general meeting of Shell held in London was disrupted by climate activists. 

Amid growing environmental consciousness and public concern about their future in a warming world, the researchers believe falling stock prices due to climate litigation will shape corportate behavious for the better. 

Quantifying the human cost of global warming – Nature Sustainability

Abstract The costs of climate change are often estimated in monetary terms, but this raises ethical issues. Here we express them in terms of numbers of people left outside the ‘human climate niche’—defined as the historically highly conserved distribution of…


World’s top 21 fossil fuel companies owe $5,444 billion in climate reparations, study says

Coal India Limited was exempted from paying for damages as India’s Gross National Income per capita income is below $4000, researchers said

A new study for the first time holds the world’s 21 largest fossil fuel companies morally accountable for their share of carbon emissions by quantifying the money owed in climate reparations.

An amount of $5,444 billion with a yearly average of $209 billion would be disbursed over a 26-year period between 2025 and 2050, according to the analysis published in the journal One Earth. 

ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, and Shell—the companies most often accused of delaying action on climate change—would have the first, third, and fourth highest reparations, the paper stated.

Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy, at Climate Action Network International, told Down to Earth:

As increasingly devastating storms, floods, and sea-level rise bring misery to millions of people every day, questions around reparations have come to the fore. For decades, fossil fuel companies have engaged in denial, disinformation, and delay to distract attention from their role as the main perpetrators of the climate crisis.

The study, authored by Marco Grasso from the Department of Sociology and Social Research at the University of Milan and Richard Heede from the Climate Accountability Institute, said, “This is the moral rationale for reparations in the form of financial rectification by fossil fuel companies in the context of climate change.”

“In the case of the carbon fuel industry, reparations require that companies relinquish part of their tainted wealth to provide affected subjects with financial means for coping with climate harm, consistent with the climate justice movement’s core demand that fossil fuel companies repay their impacts debt,” they elaborated.

Of the twenty-one companies identified, investor-owned and state-owned companies headquartered in wealthier nations were categorised as “high requirement” (HR) as they were responsible for a higher proportion of emissions.

Fossil fuel companies’ annual average reparations 2025-2050

Source: Time to pay the piper: Fossil fuel companies’ reparations for climate damages

The HR companies and the amount they should owe between 2025 and 2050 are:

  • Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia ($1,110 billion)
  • ExxonMobil in the United States ($478 billion)
  • Shell in the United Kingdom ($424 billion)
  • British Petroleum Company in the UK ($377 billion)
  • Chevron in the US ($333 billion)
  • Abu Dhabi National Oil Company ($318 billion)
  • Peabody Energy in the US ($285 billion)
  • TotalEnergies in France ($243 billion)
  • Kuwait Petroleum Corp in Kuwait ($243 billion)
  • ConocoPhillips in the US ($208 billion)
  • Broken Hill Proprietary in Australia ($208 billion)

State-owned companies headquartered in less-wealthy countries were deemed as ‘low requirement’ companies and their financial obligation over the same time period would be:

  • Gazprom in the Russian Federation ($522 billion)
  • Pemex in Mexico ($192 billion)
  • PetroChina in China ($188 billion)
  • Rosneft in the Russian Federation ($116 billion)
  • Iraq National Oil Co ($109 billion)
  • Petrobras in Brazil ($101 billion)

Exempting Coal India

State-owned companies in poorer countries were categorised as ‘exempted’ from paying for their emissions, namely Coal India Ltd, National Iranian Oil, Petroleos de Venezuela and Sonatrach in Algeria.

Singh told DTE, “Unlike western fossil fuel entities, exempting Coal India Ltd was necessary because in India, coal is used to serve the energy needs of millions of poor people and hence the exemption was rightly justified.”

“In our analysis, including India, fossil fuel companies in countries with less than $4000 per capita Gross National Income were exempted from paying. We have to think of the social and economic value these fossil fuel entities add to their countries, even in terms of tax revenues,” Grasso told DTE.

“We conservatively start the clock for climate reparations in 1988, the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established and when NASA scientist James Hansen testified before the US Senate that the human signal in climate change had been detected,” the researchers explained.

According to the study, Coal India contributed 26,208 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) of cumulative emissions between 1988 and 2022, equivalent to 2.33 per cent of global emissions.

How did they do it

Grasso explained to DTE how they arrived at their calculations. “A group of 738 global economists estimated that $99 trillion will be the total cost of damages caused by climate change between 2025 and 2050. We calculated the proportion of global cumulative fossil fuel emissions from methane and carbon dioxide between 1988 to 2018 was at 70.37 per cent.”

“And the 70 per cent of $99 trillion is $69.68 trillion, which is the total climate damage attributable to fossil fuels,” Grasso told DTE.

“We argue that there are three groups of agents who contributed to climate change. Producers are basically those who extract, refine and sell fossil fuels to the global market. Emitters, who are consumers. Political authorities, who can make important decisions. As we could not find a scientific way to divide the $69.68 trillion between these three groups, we divided them in three equal quotas of climate damages of $23.2 trillion,” Grasso explained further.

“We further calculated that the top 21 fossil fuel companies contributed almost 35.9 per cent of fossil fuel emissions and the commensurate proportion of climate damages was at $8.33 trillion (35.9 per cent of $23.2 trillion). We apportioned the sum according to these companies’ global cumulative emissions between 1988 and 2022,” Grasso told DTE.

This proposed global reparations scheme is not meant to replace the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s Green Climate Fund and the recently established Loss and Damage Fund at COP27. It is proposed to complement them, the researcher added.

“Our work aims to lay the groundwork for further investigation into the role of the fossil fuel industry in climate change and should not be understood as a fully-fledged policy proposal,” the paper emphasised.

Read more: 

$209bn a year is what fossil fuel firms owe in climate reparations. We want that paid | André Wright

The truth is out, and it lays bare big oil’s plunder of the environment for commercial greed. Academics now estimate that the 21 top fossil fuel behemoths are liable for an estimated US$209bn annual reparation bill arising from their exploitation….

Fossil fuel firms owe climate reparations of $209bn a year, says study

The world’s top fossil fuel companies owe at least $209bn in annual climate reparations to compensate communities most damaged by their polluting business and decades of lies, a new study calculates. BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Total, Saudi Arabia’s state oil company…


Odisha’s model colony for climate refugees in Kendrapara should be emulated across India

More than 45 million people in the country will be forced to migrate due to environmental disruptions by 2050 

Saraswati Mohanty, a resident of the Baghpatia Colony, in front of her partially constructed house. Photo: ActionAid Saraswati Mohanty, a resident of the Baghpatia Colony, in front of her partially constructed house. Photo: ActionAid

The Chief Minister of Odisha recently sanctioned Rs 22 crore to develop the Satabhaya Baghpatia Thithan Colony in Kendrapara district as a model colony under the Government of Odisha’s Adarsh Colony initiative. The announcement provides hope to people displaced by climate change and suffering from the impact of sea incursions for many decades.

A combination of factors makes coastal Odisha a climate change hotspot. It is a cyclone-prone area, and the intensity and frequency of cyclones have increased over the recent years. The destruction of mangroves and unchecked construction activity have increased the vulnerability to extreme weather events.

Elderly residents of Satabhaya, a village in the eastern state, have painful memories of past displacements. Satabhaya, meaning seven brothers, was named after the original seven villages which were lost to the sea before the 1970s. 

Villagers from those seven villages moved inward and settled in five new villages under the Satabhaya Gram Panchayat. Over the following decades, villagers from the Satabhaya panchayat again left for safer locations as their agricultural and homestead lands were being swallowed up by the intruding sea or laid to a sandy waste.  

ActionAid Association visited the resettlement colony at Baghpati as part of a study on climate change’s impact on people in coastal areas. 

Around 751 households displaced from seven coastal villages were rehabilitated in the resettlement colony, the team found. 

However, 33.45 per cent of the houses are incomplete and the construction work of a few homes had not yet started. More than two-thirds of the houses were partially constructed, without toilets and drainage systems.

Our study also found that only 10 decimals of land (a decimal is a hundredth of an acre) were allocated to people, though their homestead areas in Satabhaya were 3-5 times of that. 

In their interactions with the study team, residents pointed to the sea, at the tip of a temple spire visible only when the waves recede and to areas where fertile agriculture lands once existed. 

They also shared rent receipts as proof of possession. At the resettlement site, people have not been given titles for the homestead land allocated.

Access to drinking water, educational and health services are minimal in the resettlement colony.  In a discussion, residents told us that neighbouring villages do not want to marry their girls to villages which may once again be lost to the sea, and their work burdens have increased as making ends meet means they’ve to work a lot harder.  

Satabhaya is only one of the many villages lost to the sea, leaving behind communities to find new homes and ways to survive. 

Satabhaya is like the tip of the iceberg of displacements unfolding due to the worsening climate crisis. 

ActionAid’s 2020 report Costs of Climate Inaction: Displacement and Distressed Migration stated that India had a total of 14 million people internally displaced due to environmental disruptions. More than 45 million people will be forced to migrate from their homes by 2050.  

Anthropogenic climate change has not only increased the frequency and hazard intensity of the rapid-onset events like cyclones, landslides and storm surges, but it has also made India highly prone to displacement due to slow-onset events like water stress, coastal and riverine erosion, continued crop failures and ecosystem loss.  

A need for a participatory assessment framework that covers economic, social and psychological loss and damage is a first step to paving the way for a sensitive policy appreciation for designing resettlement and rehabilitation.  

A feminist and rights lens to such an assessment would be crucial in building back for progressive futures. A resettlement plan oblivious to visible and invisible losses women and girls suffer due to displacements as well as blind to the need for better futures for all, will be a step backwards.  

A climate justice framework that recognises that communities with the smallest ecological footprints and have only served humanity as frontline ecology defenders are the ones who suffer the most must inform our thinking and action for compensation and rehabilitation.  

In this context, the news of the sanction of funds to build the Satabhaya Baghpatia Thithan Colony as a model colony is positive. While the plan announced also includes the provision of agricultural land to displaced households, it will be critical to ensure that a principle of land for land is observed on the basis of past land records and also with the promise of land to landless families. The model should be emulated across the country. 

India and other countries of the Global South won a hard-fought victory at the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Egypt in setting up an international fund for compensating climate-induced losses and damages. Now it becomes imperative to create mechanisms for its implementation within the country.  

We stand at the crossroads of an impending climate catastrophe. The decisions we take today for those bearing the greatest impact of climate change will pave the way for the future course of our lives, livelihoods and civilisation. 

Sandeep Chachra, Debabrat Patra and Koustav Majumdar work with the ActionAid Association India.

Views expressed are the authors’ own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth.

Wealth tax of 0.5% could cover UK’s share of loss and damage fund, says charity

A tax on wealthy Britons of just 0.5% could more than meet the UK’s entire “fair share” contribution to the international loss and damage fund established to support countries worst hit by global climate breakdown, a charity has suggested. Taxing…

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