Early View Article - Changing climate law and governance: A multi-level perspective

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Addressing the climate crisis involves changing climate law and governance. Climate litigation can facilitate this change. How and why does change occur? A multilevel perspective can assist in answering these questions. There are three levels: niches, regimes and landscapes. Actors in the protected spaces of niches develop ideas and legal arguments in climate litigation. Through a process characterised by the phases of emergence, diffusion, adaptation and cumulation, the ideas and arguments are incorporated by domestic courts' decisions into the law of the land. This process is facilitated by exogenous developments at the landscape level. The changing climate and the changing responses of the international community and international law exert contextual pressure on domestic courts' decision-making. The combined pressures from the niche and landscape levels create tensions in the regime, making it receptive to incorporate the novel ideas and arguments and change climate law and governance. Other actors in the regime respond to this change in the law. The legislature and executive, the private sector and legal profession, adjust their behaviours accordingly. In sum, there is regime change. This process of change is illustrated using the ideas and arguments of inter- and intra- generational equity.

Policy Implications

  • Addressing the climate crisis involves changing climate law and governance. Climate litigation is one means to effect this needed change. The court's decisions change the law.
  • How does climate litigation facilitate change? Adopting a multi-level perspective can assist in understanding the process by which climate litigation leads to change in climate law and governance.
  • Breakthroughs of innovative ideas and legal arguments depend not only on their conception at the niche level, but also on processes at the levels of regimes and landscapes and their interaction to facilitate change.
  • Actors, such as environmental organisations, working at the niche level develop ideas and legal arguments that are accepted by courts at the regime level. This acceptance is only able to be facilitated by a shift in attitudes and awareness to the climate crisis at the landscape level.


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