First LRI law clinic outside the UK

During the Madrid climate conference, LRI partnered with IE University – Madrid Campus to provide support to the LRI team in the negotiations.

Despite the fact that this was an exam period, over 70 students initially expressed an interest to volunteer and undertake additional research. Following a selection process around 30 law and international relations students – most of them undergraduates – took it in turn to meet during the conference and help LRI.

Their research involved looking into topics as varied as the relationship between the Biodiversity Convention and the UNFCCC, the procedure followed by the UN General Assembly for granting an institutional relationship to a non-UN affiliated organisation, and fossil fuel production subsidies in industrialised countries.

Whilst the main objective was to assist with the advice service, this was also an opportunity to raise awareness amongst the students of the UNFCCC process and negotiations and about the importance of the legal dimension of climate change. One of the students, Tabea Boglin, commented: “Being able to participate as a researcher for LRI during COP25 was very educational as I was able to research topics I was not familiar with and learn about how different countries approach these topics. Moreover, the lawyers we worked with were very passionate about their work and gave us insights into how COP25 functioned, while sharing various experiences they have had. Not only did this opportunity allow me to become more knowledgeable but it also allowed me to contribute this knowledge for a good cause”.

Madrid Climate Change Conference

LRI briefing during COMIFAC coordination meeting

The Madrid climate conference ended on Sunday after two additional days and nights. The final decision urges parties, when communicating or updating their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in 2020, to consider the existing emission gap “with a view to reflecting their highest possible ambition”. Parties did not agree on the rules to put Article 6 of the Paris Agreement (on market and non-market approaches) into operation.

During 2 weeks of climate negotiations in Madrid we recorded over 30 legal queries. Ten of those came from delegations that work together in the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), eight from members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and seven from the African Group of Negotiators (AGN). Five questions were from other developing countries (e.g. Thailand or Sri Lanka) and 4 from observer organisations.

As usual, the questions reflect the dynamics in the negotiations. For example, we worked on several queries related to Article 6 and different iterations of the draft decision text. Other questions pertained to the governance of the Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage and the privileges and immunities required by the Green Climate Fund to carry out its functions. In addition, we are advising on national implementation issues and domestic climate governance arrangements.

We are grateful to all the experts and volunteers who have been and are still supporting us in doing the necessary research and drafting legal opinions! During the Madrid conference this included a group of around 30 university students who met almost daily as part of LRI’s first law clinic outside the UK.

LRI and delegates from Nigeria and Lesotho

Round-table workshop on climate legislation in Botswana

In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, LRI held a two-day round-table capacity building workshop in Gaborone, Botswana, from 9-10 October. Thirty government officials from different departments such as agriculture, transport, water and the General Attorney’s Office attended the workshop sponsored by the UK government’s Climate Ambition Support Alliance (CASA).

The first day of the workshop focused on the Paris Agreement and “Rulebook” (the decisions adopted in Katowice in December 2018) and their implications for law and policy in Botswana. During the second day, participants discussed possible approaches and processes to develop specific legislation on climate change in Botswana. The workshop facilitators, Robert Ondhowe and Christoph Schwarte, highlighted different design options, lessons learnt in other jurisdictions and the available infrastructure of support.

A member of the Attorney General’s Office commented that this was the first time such a workshop took place following the ratification of a new international treaty by Botswana. As the country’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for 23 October, it is, however, difficult to predict how soon the recently adopted climate change policy will be supplemented by further legislation. The workshop host Balisi Gopolang was optimistic and felt that following the event “now things will start to move”.