International Corporate Liability for Environmental Harm

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The Problem

The growing globalization and interconnectedness of the international economy has increased the relevance of laws regarding cross-border and extraterritorial environmental harm. Serious risks to the environment and human rights frequently materialize within global value chains and emissions do not stop at borders. Currently, national governments only have limited instruments at their disposal to deal effectively with the still relatively new reality of a flexible and borderless world economy. Environmental liability law is often attributed with the potential to fill these gaps as it offers the means to obtain compensation for those whose rights have been violated by negative environmental impacts. In addition to this, environmental liability law can also have a preventive effect in that it creates financial risks, and thus incentives, for corporations to prevent environmental damage.

The Aim of the Research Project

The Research Project started in September 2019. The aim is to critically review the regulatory structure of international liability law, in particular the existing legal framework surrounding cross-border environmental harm caused by corporations. Numerous fundamental questions have been addressed: How can liability law create better incentives to modify (potentially) damaging behavior in today’s complex global economy? What is the relationship between state and private responsibility for the environment? To what extent do international agreements foresee liability for environmental harm? How can regulations on the national and international level better complement each other in a constructive way? What is the potential of using national law to regulate civil liability for transboundary damage? What are the regulatory options for anchoring environmental due diligence obligations in national laws which are effective across borders? In addition to such overarching issues, the project also has focused on two specific areas: climate change litigation and the increasingly important problem of geo-engineering. (See the project flyer)

The Workshop series seeks to discuss the preliminary results of the Research Project.

Workshop 1 – Environmental protection through value chain due diligence legislation (organized by David Krebs)

Workshop 2 - International standards for national environmental liability norms – obstacles and potential for the development of a transnational environmental standard of care (organized by Prof. Dr. Kirsten Schmalenbach, Dr. Peter Gailhofer)

Workshop 3 – Liability for Climate Damage and Geoengineering Activities (organized by Dr. Roda Verheyen, Prof. Dr. Alexander Proelß)

More information and the programme

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