By leveraging new tools and research, including pioneering work by Rick Heede that traces the bulk of industrial greenhouse emissions since 1850 to a group of only 90 “Carbon Majors,” we have the potential to completely change the game on the critical issue of attributing responsibility for climate change. CIEL, with Greenpeace International and the World Wildlife Fund, launched an innovative legal campaign that questions whether corporate executives can and will be held responsible for their anti-climate actions.
History shows that those who mislead the public, the market, or the government about the risks of their products, or the availability of safer alternatives, can face substantial legal liability, both as companies and as individuals.
To that effect, we sent a letter to the executives of the Carbon Majors and large insurance companies in May, asking who will pay the bill if such a lawsuit is brought against their directors or officers. For companies operating in good faith, director and officer liability policies would generally protect higher ups from undesirable business outcomes beyond their control. But can those same individuals face personal liability for funding climate denialism and opposing policies to fight climate change?