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Holding Private Emitters to Account for the Effects of Climate Change: Could a Case Like Lliuya Succeed under English Nuisance Laws?

Vedantha Kumar, Will Frank


This article considers the potential for English nuisance laws to be used against large greenhouse gas emitters with respect to flood hazards brought about by global warming-induced glacial melting. The analysis is centred on the ongoing case in the German courts of Lliuya v RWE AG, which concerns a claim for precautionary measures to be taken by the defendant with respect to such a hazard. Taking a comparative approach, the article critically assesses whether a similar case could be brought under English law. Previous research into the application of English private law to climate change has been abstract in nature, and none focus on this particular kind of case. By focusing on a specific fact pattern it is hoped that a deeper and more tangible insight into the opportunities and challenges facing potential litigants can be gleaned. Each element of Lliuya is taken in turn, and it is argued that while such a claim would face significant obstacles under English law, particularly around establishing causation and the requirement of ‘special damage’, none are insurmountable.

Vedantha Kumar is a Senior Policy Advisor to the UK government on climate policy, specifically the EU Emissions Trading System (writing in his personal capacity here), Princess Royal Scholar of Inner Temple and student of law at BPP University, London. For correspondence: <>. Dr Will Frank is an advisor to environmental NGO Germanwatch in matters of climate law and was engaged in developing the legal arguments for Lliuya v RWE AG. For correspondence: <>.


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