Climate change litigation: are courts going to save the world?

In several recent decisions, from the Dutch Urgenda case to the decision of the BVerfG on the German Climate Change Law, national courts have occupied centre stage on climate change policy discussions. The types of legal claims made range from Constitutional Law and fundamental rights to private law. National judges have the potential to become allies of citizens and NGOs in the construction and enforcement of ambitious climate change policies. Even though climate change is an international issue, the same level of success was not achieved so far in international courts and para-jurisdictional bodies. This means that the remedies available in national law have come to be used to fill the gaps in judicial protection against inaction in this scope. However, the dawn of unilateral judicial interferences in environmental policy also raises concerns over the institutional legitimacy of the decisions and the alleged breach of separation of powers.