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Climate litigation in Europe in the wake of Covid-19

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van Thuyne Gauthier
Gauthier van Thuyne

Partner

Brussels

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Goossens Fee
Fee Goossens

Senior associate

Brussels

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30 September 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic that has forced more than half of the world’s population into restrictive lockdowns of varying degrees has also triggered sudden drops in greenhouse gas emissions and a significant improvement in air quality because of the drastic decline in human activity. 

But many commentators have warned us not to mistake these signs for solutions to the serious threats associated with climate change. They argue that this brief drop in emissions will provide no lasting relief for the climate.

In fact, the economic downturn caused by lockdowns could prove detrimental to efforts to decrease global emissions if it prompts governments to invest large sums of money to bail out fossil fuel-dependent industries in order to restart their economies.

However, a future in which carbon emissions skyrocket in a desperate attempt to save jobs and livelihoods in the short term is not fatal. Many experts and policymakers around the world have come together to seek solutions for a green recovery to the pandemic. The idea of a green recovery has also been receiving significant coverage in European media. This article explores the impact of the coronavirus pandemic from the perspective of climate regulation and litigation in Europe, and attempts to identify future trends in this area.

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