State responsibility and liability for climate damages caused by non-state actors

Mohamed Elagouz

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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Climate change with its dreadful impacts (including extreme weather conditions, and rising sea levels) are positively correlated with the increasing climatically polluting activities of Non-State Actors (NSAs). Despite the activities of these NSAs result in dreadful damages to the peoples and their environment, there is no direct international legal basis for holding these NSAs liable for these damages. Since States are the main actors and subjects of International law, the question that may arise is: To what extent can States incur responsibility and liability for climate change damages caused by non-state actors? The dissertation found that the traditional international climate change law does not provide clear cut State obligations regarding NSAs activities the breaching of which triggers State responsibility and liability, except for its obligation to communicate its nationally determined contributions, and its due diligence obligations. However, such due diligence obligation is not well-specified or applied under climate change law. Therefore, there was a necessity to pursue a legal pluralist approach. Based on this approach, the dissertation could analyse whether the State responsibility could be triggered on basis of breaching its precautionary duty from a human rights perspective, as approached by domestic and regional courts. Moreover, the dissertation analysed an extensive interpretation of the due diligence obligation on States regarding the activities of NSAs under the biodiversity law and the law of the sea to figure out whether breaching such obligation can trigger the liability of the State. The dissertation concluded that, although the State (direct and indirect) responsibility can be triggered internationally for the harmful activities of NSAs, its intra responsibility at the domestic level is likely to be more legally doable, given the bottom-up approach that the Paris Agreement has maintained in addressing the State responsibility for climate change-related damages. Therefore, the State is liable for ceasing the climate harmful GHG emitting activities of NSAs, for restitution, and even more compensating for any damage that occur as a result of such harmful activities.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Heldeweg, Michiel A., Supervisor
  • Matera, Claudio, Co-Supervisor
Award date14 Dec 2023
Place of PublicationEnschede, the Netherlands
Print ISBNs978-90-365-5932-4
Electronic ISBNs978-90-365-5933-1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2023


  • State responsibility
  • liability
  • Climate justice
  • Non-state actors
  • GHGs emissions
  • (in)direct responsibility
  • due diligence
  • precautionary principle


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