London lawyers, climate change and justice


On Thursday 4 July 2019, as part of London Climate Action Week Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) hosted a panel discussion on how lawyers from very different walks of life may contribute to fair and equitable climate change responses worldwide. Under the title “London lawyers, climate change and justice” panellists reflected on a variety of approaches and projects at the international and national levels.

After a welcome by Kiran Arora of BCLP, Seth Osafo, Legal Adviser to the African Group of Negotiators in the international climate negotiations provided an introduction to the international climate policy process and its legal instruments. He highlighted in particular provisions that seek to promote climate justice between industrialized and developing countries. In response, Richard Dyton of Simmons & Simmons presented some examples of how the legal community tries to support climate vulnerable actors – whether its countries or communities. In his experience any form of injustice motivates lawyers to get actively involved in projects.

Moving from the global to the local, Gita Parihar, former legal counsel of Friends of the Earth provided several examples of on-going legal action by groups and communities in the Global South who are adversely affected by climate change. She also introduced a new London based initiative: the Climate Justice Fund.

In the current “climate emergency” human rights are increasingly at the heart of efforts to protect people and planet. Adrienne Joy, therefore, presented the work of ROLE UK – a pro-bono initiative that strengthens good governance and human rights in developing country jurisdictions. The last speaker, LRI chair Silke Golberg of Herbert Smith Freehills, stressed the need for incremental steps to address climate change that can start at home. Capacity building and working with legal communities in the South is key to gradually develop the necessary legal frameworks and skills.

Participants and panellists discussed a broad range of issues ranging from the ethical rules of the profession to climate refugees. The UK is very likely to the host the global climate change conference in 2020 which would provide a good opportunity to further involve the legal sector in climate action. We are grateful to all participants for their comments and suggestions!