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Ed Couzens, Tim Stephens, Cameron Holley, Saiful Karim, Kate Owens, Manuel Solis and Katie Woolaston
Class actions provide a mechanism for grouping together like claims; and, in doing so, can enhance access to justice and the integrity of our democratic processes. Environmental class actions have an important role to play in environmental governance including by providing compensation and remediation, shaping norms of conduct and promoting accountability. There are, however, various limitations on the usefulness of class actions in achieving environmental objectives. In particular, the class actions regime is procedural rather than substantive (it does not overcome limitations on the availability or utility of causes of action for addressing environmental harm); it attracts the operation of additional rules and jurisprudence which may make some actions more difficult or not well suited to being brought as class actions; and class actions tend to be expensive and risky. Accordingly (and notwithstanding a recent flurry) we are unlikely to see the opening of the dreaded floodgates. Rather, environmental governance will most likely continue to be supported by the appropriate and considered commencement and conduct of meritorious actions.