State Responsibility for Climate Change Damages

22 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2008 Last revised: 19 Oct 2014


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlined in its Fourth Assessment Report (2007) various consequences of continuing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The effects include the loss of land and property, health and ecological damages, threats to human security and potential human casualties. The question which this article seeks to address is whether and how international law is equipped to deal with complex global challenges such as climate change. Special focus is given to the law on state responsibility and its capacity to deal with damages that are caused by a changing climate. In this context, the following legal issues will be examined: Can states be held responsible under international law for current or future climate change damages? Is there an obligation under public international law to prevent and to compensate for such damages? Especially the determination of a primary obligation to prevent harm, acting with due diligence, the question of causality and the determination of legal consequences are considered. As the examples given by the IPCC show, there will be an increasing need to address the issue of compensation for climate damages. Justice, fairness and international, national and human security require international law to adjust and live up to these challenges.

Keywords: environmental harm, climate change damages, legal obligations, duty of prevention, state responsibility

Suggested Citation

Voigt, Christina, State Responsibility for Climate Change Damages. Nordic Journal of International Law, Vol. 77, Nos. 1-2, pp. 1-22, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Christina Voigt (Contact Author)

University of Oslo ( email )

PO Box 6706 St Olavsplass
Oslo, 0130

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