ESG: Environment – Social – Governance

Climate Litigation

Climate protection is one of the most fundamental issues of our time. For decades, the central climate protection goals were mainly the subject of agreements under international law and as such were hardly enforced. One current development is that state courts, too, are obliging the respective national legislators and governments, and increasingly also private companies, to effectively pursue climate protection goals.

The importance of law disputes has recently increased significantly due to changing framework conditions: As a result of new laws at national and international level – such as the Act on Corporate Due Diligence in Supply Chains (Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz) – companies are subject to increasingly strict obligations in ESG. Gleiss Lutz has long been a market leader in Germany in dispute resolution and litigation. For years now, we have represented clients in court and out-of-court (high-profile) proceedings with an ESG dimension, long before ESG became as important as it is now in the public’s perception. From proceedings in connection with the nuclear phase-out and the Offshore Wind Energy Act to the clean air plans of various major cities to class actions involving emissions, we advise and represent our clients in constitutional, public law and civil law disputes before the German courts and international tribunals.

The legislator has made the enforcement of claims in litigious proceedings considerably easier in recent years, for example, by introducing the group action and specific rules on standing to sue. This development has a fundamentally new quality, especially for companies in business areas with a direct or indirect relevance to emissions. Companies’ reports on their sustainability plans and measures are increasingly prompting NGOs and private individuals alike to take the companies to court to establish whether the commitments they make stand the judicial test and to force them to fulfil those commitments. Corporate ESG reporting has thus already become actionable to a large extent.

We represent the interests of our clients in the courts throughout Germany across all branches of the judiciary and are regularly involved in landmark proceedings. Our clients benefit in particular from our full service approach in ESG-related matters: This is because such an approach enables us to advise on all parallel developments such as civil litigation, administrative proceedings, cartel investigations, criminal proceedings and special audits at the highest level and to develop an integrative litigation strategy.