Unpacking Smith v Fonterra and global climate change trends

  • Podcast

    12 February 2024

Unpacking Smith v Fonterra and global climate change trends Desktop Image Unpacking Smith v Fonterra and global climate change trends Mobile Image

Litigation related to climate change is an evolving area, with activists increasingly resorting to legal action to hold governments or organisations accountable for their perceived roles in causing or contributing to climate change.

In this episode, Jane Standage and Andrew Horne, Partners in our Litigation team, discuss the latest trends in climate change litigation and the Supreme Court’s decision in Smith v Fonterra – a landmark judgment of international significance to large corporates.

[00:00:25 - 00:01:46] Jane and Andrew break down why climate change litigation is on the rise due to changing weather patterns and transitional impacts like government regulations, consumer demands, and shifting business models. 

[00:02:11 - 00:03:55] Andrew, who is counsel for one of the parties in the case, explains the landmark decision in Smith v Fonterra, allowing claims brought by a climate change activist against seven corporate defendants to proceed to trial. The decision opens the door to more activist litigation against corporate defendants related to carbon emissions and environmental impact.

[00:03:55 - 00:10:17] The pair break down the key points and implications in Smith v Fonterra. Andrew outlines why the Supreme Court's decision makes it challenging for corporates to use the strike out procedure, meaning that cases are more likely to go to longer and more expensive trials. They discuss why the decision could encourage activist litigation globally, especially in relation to climate change issues.

[00:10:58 - 00:15:56] Jane gives an overview of the global landscape of climate change litigation. She discusses the ClientEarth v Shell case in the UK, where activists sued Shell directors for alleged inefficiencies and failure in climate risk management. She then discusses how regulators in Australia are taking action against greenwashing claims, with cases pending against superannuation funds. She mentions Australian cases including Abrahams v CBA, highlighting the importance of accurate and transparent disclosure regarding climate change-related risks.

Information in this episode is accurate as at the date of recording, 08 February 2024.


Please get in touch to receive an episode transcript. Please don’t forget to rate, review or follow MinterEllisonRuddWatts wherever you get your podcasts. You can also sign up to receive litigation updates via your inbox here.

Please contact Andrew Horne, Jane Standage or our Litigation team if you need legal advice and guidance on any of the topics discussed in the episode.

You can read our full Litigation Forecast 2024 article on climate change litigation here.