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Climate Litigation as a Social Driver Towards Deep Decarbonisation II: Zooming in on Two Cases


Cathrin Zengerling, Jill Bähring, Stefan C. Aykut, Antje Wiener


This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Licence Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

A rising number of climate cases is brought against governments, administrations, and companies in support of enhanced climate action. This is the second of two articles that aim to scrutinise climate litigation as a social process and as a driver towards deep decarbonisation from the perspectives of law, social, and political sciences. Working towards more systematic research on societal embedding and dynamics of climate litigation, we further develop and test two analytical tools, the Social Plausibility Assessment Framework and the Global Opportunity Structure, at two levels.
While the first article presented these analytical tools and analysed general developments in climate litigation in their societal context at an overarching level, this second article zooms into a case-specific level and examines two landmark decisions, Neubauer and others v Germany and Milieudefensie and others v Shell. The analytical approach generates valuable insights about the conditions and effects of climate litigation on both levels. Our results show that climate litigation is a significant driver towards deep decarbonisation that is shaped by, and continuously shapes, legal, socio-political, economic, and scientific scripts and repertoires that enable novel forms of societal agency.

Jun-Prof Dr Cathrin Zengerling, LLM (University of Michigan), Head of Junior Professorship Transformation to Sustainable Energy Systems, University of Freiburg. For correspondence: <>; Jill Bähring, LLM (VU Amsterdam), PhD Student at the Faculty of Law, University of Hamburg. For correspondence: <>. Prof Stefan C Aykut, Mercator Endowed Professor for Sociology, University of Hamburg. For correspondence: <>; Prof and Antje Wiener, PhD FAcSS MAE, Professor for Political Science & Global Governance, University of Hamburg. For correspondence: <>.


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