Climate change Tribunal – Holding governments, companies
and individuals accountable
In 2009, Oxfam supported countries and communities to hold Climate Hearings in 36 countries that
involved over 1.6million people. Coupled with the actions and voices of thousands of other civil
society organisations and million of individuals around the world, the message to act and the
urgency of the action was clear. At the COP 15 meeting in Copenhagen, the world’s political leaders
failed to make significant progress toward the global deal that is a key component in the fight
against the changing climate. In fact, if anything, the possibility for that deal was eroded by
protection of private and economic interest by key developed states.
We know that climate change is already having an impact on lives and livelihoods in thousands of
communities around the world, and that this is set to increase over the coming years. It is clear that
the global community cannot now give up on efforts to ensure accountability and effective action
from political and business leaders. It is essential to take the next step– to move from asking to
In a democracy, the legal system is a method for holding governments and companies, as well as
individuals to account. Therefore, Oxfam is supporting a number of ‘people’s tribunals’. We are
working with national and local partner organisations, affected communities, legal and climate
experts to hold events that will explore the legal space available at the national level for litigation
on the impacts of climate change, including due to actions taken by companies, governments and
other bodies. The climate tribunals will take place outside of the court system but will feature cases
that are selected and prepared with on the basis of legal analysis, and will include testimonies by
witnesses from some of the communities whose lives and livelihoods are being affected by the
impacts of a changing climate.
In 2010, climate tribunals will take place in Bangladesh (8th November) and India (16th November). A
third climate tribunal will happen in South Africa in early 2011, with the possibility of others to
follow throughout the year.
There is growing interest around the world about the possibility of successful litigation on climate
change, with an increasing number of test cases in different countries. Here are a couple of links to
useful sights to give you some background on this:
A resource: http://climatelitigation.com/
A report: http://www.field.org.uk/news/climate-litigation
The aims of the tribunals are:
To increase the pressure on relevant national actors to take serious actions to mitigate the
effects of climate change and to contribute to all adaptation needs, especially those of the
To show that concern has increased, not diminished following the failure of Copenhagen and
that people are moving beyond awareness to have harder hitting impact on political process.
To contribute to prove that it is possible to use existing legislation to force companies and
Governments to take actions to mitigate Climate Change and to fund the adaptation needs.
To keep global civil society pressure on decision makers around the world to force them to
reach a FAB agreement on Climate Change the earliest possible.
Oxfam involvement role at the global level:
Each of the tribunals and hearings will be managed at the national level by the Oxfam affiliate or
national office, working closely with national partners. However, in addition to national level objectives
and impact, each event will contribute to keep the global pressure on decision makers at international
level to achieve a FAB deal as soon as possible.
The aims of the project for the global level are:
- To highlight continued concern by publics, and a willingness of publics to demand
accountability of national actors (government & companies), including through the national
- To use material from national events to highlight the human face of climate change in the
midst of the global political horse-trading.
The project is separate from but linked to global campaigning on Climate Change and campaigning
targeting the COP 16.