Johannes Saurer (Tübingen/Bonn): Climate change litigation in the Anthropocene


In recent years, the term “Anthropocene” has emerged as a key paradigm in interdisciplinary discourse. Geologists, physicists, sociologists, and philosophers trace, measure, and interpret the imprint of humankind on nature. This lecture will reflect on the challenges of the Anthropocene paradigm and its ecological imprint on law, examining in particular the role of courts. Relevant legal texts and practices include the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement of 2015, EU climate change legislation, and national climate change laws. In many legal orders, there are significant deficits concerning the implementation and enforcement of common goals for climate change policy. Thus, around the globe, social movements, including most recently “Fridays for Future”, express growing concern about climate change and increase pressure on national governments to revamp their climate change policies. Accordingly, more and more private individuals, environmental NGOs, and businesses are turning to the courts to seek court orders for legal protection against the negative effects of climate change, both for current and future dangers.

Out of the several hundred climate change cases worldwide, the lecture will draw on a number of exemplary cases unfolding around the globe – from continental Europe to the United States to South America. A cross-cutting perspective on these cases in their political, societal, and legal contexts will help identify an overarching set of problems that shape the role of courts in climate change litigation.

(Prof. Dr. Johannes Saurer)

Curriculum Vitae

Professor Dr. Johannes Saurer studied law at the University of Tübingen and at Yale University. In 2002 and 2007 he obtained the First and Second State Examination in Law. He received a doctorate of the University of Bayreuth based on a dissertation on the functions of delegated legislation with particular regard to environmental law (Die Funktionen der Rechtsverordnung, Duncker Humblot: 2005) and obtained a Master Degree from the Yale Law School (LL.M. 2008). In 2011 Johannes Saurer received his habilitation from the University of Bayreuth based on a thesis on individual rights in EU administrative law (Der Einzelne im europäischen Verwaltungsrecht, Mohr Siebeck: 2014) and was awarded the venia legendi for public law, European law and philosophy of law. From 2013 to 2014 he was Professor for Public Law at the University of Bielefeld. Since 2014 he is Professor at the University of Tübingen, where he holds the Chair for Public Law, Environmental Law, Law of Infrastructure and Comparative Law at the Faculty of Law. In recent years, the research of Johannes Saurer focused on general aspects of constitutional law and administrative law, but also on climate change regulation and the law of energy transition in a comparative perspective. His most recent publication is the co-edited volume „The U.S. Supreme Court and Contemporary Constitutional Law: The Obama Era Its Legacy” (Kaiser/Petersen/Saurer eds., Routledge/Nomos: 2018).

Since April 2019 Prof. Dr. Johannes Saurer is Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center „Law as Culture” in Bonn.