In Russia, there have been no cases where citizens (or citizen groups) have brought a private actor to court for allegedly breaching the law by carrying out operations that contribute negatively to climate change.

The absence of such cases can be explained because: (i) private actors are under no legal obligation to limit or reduce their GHG emissions; (ii) of a weak GHG emissions reduction target which is achievable without additional measures or a deviation from a business-as-usual approach; (iii) of the pivotal role the fossil fuel industry plays in the Russian economy and the state’s support of it; and (iv) of a lack of clear norms and standards for private sector environmental obligations.

While there have been no cases brought against private actors for allegedly breaching the law by carrying out operations that contribute negatively to climate change, future cases could be based on the following grounds.

Firstly, citizens (or citizen groups) could claim that a private actor’s operations were unlawful and that an operation that contributed negatively to climate change inflicted harm to health, property or the environment under the Civil Code. In order to realise the right to compensation for harm to health or property, claimants must show that damage has been caused by a legal violation, damage to health or property, causation between action (or lack of) and damage and guilt. For harm caused to the environment, the burden of proof lies with the claimant, who must provide evidence of the environmental harm and a causal link between the climate unfriendly operation and the harm caused.

Secondly, citizens (or citizen groups) could bring a case against a pension fund on the grounds that, by contributing negatively to climate change, their operations acted out of their legal interests and violated their rights. However, there is currently no mention of the need to consider climate change risks or obligations with respect to fiduciary duties.

Under the civil procedures route, full compensation is available for citizens (or citizen groups) who have suffered harm to health or property, or satisfied the requirements for harm to the environment as a result of a private actor’s operation.

*Although in principle these legal avenues represent opportunities for citizens (or citizen groups) to bring a case against private actors, litigating on such grounds is not considered to be an effective or productive pathway for holding them accountable for their contributions to climate change. There are several existing challenges when pursuing legal actions of this sort through the Russian legal system. 

For more country specific context and relevant national climate change law see:

This country report has been produced by Humzah Khan, C2LI Senior Research Assistant and Kate McKenzie, C2LI Legal Analyst with the collaboration of Yulia Yamineva, C2LI National Rapporteur.  The summary is based on Yulia Yamineva, “Opportunities for Climate Litigation in Russia: The Impossibility of the Possible” in F. Sindico and M. Moise Mbengue, Comparative Climate Change Litigation: Beyond the Usual Suspects, Springer, 2021.