Soon after Italy approved a ban on offshore oil drilling, in 2015, the country received some alarming news: A British oil company that had been planning to drill was suing the government, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.
The company, called Rockhopper, brought its claim not in Italian courts but through a system of international arbitration that allows foreign investors to sue governments. Last year, the company won the case along with an order that the Italian government pay Rockhopper about $200 million.
On Thursday, a United Nations expert warned that cases like these could be the beginning of a wave of litigation that threatens to undermine climate action as nations look to phase out fossil fuel development.
David Boyd, the special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, told a committee of the U.N. General Assembly that governments are being targeted with dozens of legal claims seeking hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, with many of those suits brought by oil and mining companies. [Continue reading…]