ESG litigation is on the rise. As Countries implement legislation that provides commitments relating to climate change and environmental actions more broadly, it follows that litigation will arise in respect of those commitments and alleged failures to meet them.
The French duty of vigilance law introduced in 2017 places the onus on large companies in France to identify and prevent risks to human rights and the environment that could occur as a result of their business activities. Actions under the law appears to be on the rise and it is interesting to see how these laws dovetails with existing procedures and court processes and timings.
In February 2023, the French civil courts dismissed a 'fast track' lawsuit filed in 2019 by campaigners against TotalEnergies seeking to stop oil projects in Uganda and Tanzania, determining that the case was one to be examined in depth in a standard trial. Jurisdiction arguments had also been raised by TotalEnergies in respect of the French court's jurisdiction over overseas subsidiaries (an issue that is also a focus for cases being seen in the English courts).
It is an ancient saying that 'the wheels of justice move slowly'. Without commenting on the specifics of the action brought against TotalEnergies, to the lay person, the idea that a 'fast track' process takes over two years to decide upon and to dismiss may seem surprising. It is in the nature of litigation where the stakes are high and the pockets are deep that many contentions will arise as preliminary points, including standing to bring the claim, jurisdiction and other issues that may seem ancillary to the issues at the root of the claim all having the effect that the process is often long, complex and expensive. However, these are and remain fundamentals in the pursuit of court action and will remain so, subject matter notwithstanding. #ESG #ESGlitigation #dutyofvigilance #disputeresolution #litigation.
French court dismisses Uganda lawsuit against TotalEnergies