Legal Action

    The budding season might be hard to detect in a depressingly grey and icy Nordic landscape, but for the youthful activists of the Swedish Aurora group, springtime arrived with the impeccable timing of the equinox. On 21 Mars, the Nacka District Court gave the go-ahead to a class action lawsuit against the state[1], in which the group argues that Sweden’s current action on mitigating climate change is inadequate. Whether the good judges in the suburbs of Stockholm were swayed by the latest dismal instalment of IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, released just the day before, is not disclosed in the press release.

    It is a sign of times, in a way. Activists all over the world are suiting up, seamlessly moving the action from streets to courts. Filing a lawsuit against climate offenders is becoming the modern equivalent of waving a cardboard slogan. The Global Climate Change Litigation database currently includes 684 cases from over 55 countries outside of the US. Admittedly, that number pales in comparison to its affiliated U.S. Climate Change Litigation database, boasting 1564 cases and counting. But then again, the Yankees have always been more trigger-happy on the lawsuit button.

    Of course, not all of these lawsuits come anywhere close to a courtroom. Quite frankly, some of them probably shouldn’t, being just desperate cries for attention or poorly executed publicity stunts. Yet others, albeit quite legit, get bogged down in administrative procedures or simply dismissed. For the remaining ones, perseverance is the name of the game, as cases tend to drag on for years. Luckily, time is on the side of the young activists at the heart of this litigation rebellion. All they need to learn is patience.

    In the case of Aurora[2] vs Sweden, though, things should be moving along rather swiftly. The Swedish government has been granted only three months to respond to the lawsuit before the case is heard or settled in writing. Which is not a lot of time, given the extensive material that the smart young activists have assembled. I must admit, I zoomed out just a few pages into the lengthy legal document, richly interspersed with cross-references of relevant academic papers, international precedents and quotes from what seems to be the majority of the cases in the above-mentioned litigation database. But then again, I am not a lawyer myself. Sweden’s honourable Chancellor of Justice would probably appreciate the level of detail and the precise language of the document submitted by the plaintiffs. The kids have done their homework in an exemplary manner. Now it’s up to the adults to act.

    Which they have chosen to do this once. But, if you thought that Greta and her friends would rejoice at the news of their woes being taken seriously, think twice. It would, after all, mean stepping out of character. “Today, after yesterday’s IPCC report, everything is back to normal—as always,” our favourite frowning activist tweeted. “Our societies are still in denial, and those in power go on with their never-ending quests to maximize profits.” I feel for the poor Nacka lawyers, who probably thought they would make her day.

    On occasions like these, I remind myself of the immortal words of Ursula Le Guin: “The children of the revolution are always ungrateful, and the revolution must be grateful that it is so.” Let us, therefore, swallow our slight disappointment at the lukewarm reception of the court’s decision. Wait and see what it leads to and be grateful for those tireless souls demanding ever more.

    [1] The lawsuit was filed on November 25, 2022, by a group of over 600 young people born between 1996 and 2015, among them Greta Thunberg.

    [2] Formally, the class action lawsuit is filed as Anton Foley vs. the Swedish state.

    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia has accumulated experience in asset management for more than 20 years in Stockholm and Beijing, in portfolio management, asset allocation, fund selection and risk management. In December 2020, she completed a program in Sustainability Studies at the University of Linköping. Julia speaks Mandarin, Bulgarian, Hindi, Russian, Swedish, Urdu and English. She holds a Master in Indology from Sofia University and has completed studies in Economics at both Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics.

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