Lawyers at the heart of climate talks

11 December 2015


LRI lawyer Raj Bavishi (right) with clients/partners and the US Secretary of State

LRI lawyers are playing an important role as the Paris climate negotiations reach a critical point.

UK solicitor Raj Bavishi is on the Angolan delegation and represents the LDCs in a small group of legal and linguistic experts tasked by COP president Laurent Fabius with crafting and reviewing the wording of the agreement itself. The legal and linguistic group reviews draft text passed to it by the Presidency of the meeting for technical and legal conformity, but does not make any substantive changes. It also reviews translations of the text into the six official UN languages.

LRI volunteers are also working with individuals from numerous other delegations. In total LRI has so far received more than 70 legal enquiries from delegates to the talks. Some of these can be dealt with on-site, talking delegates through the issues at hand, but others need to be “farmed out” to LRI’s network of legal advisors in Europe, the US and Australia. The group is operating a “situation room” in London, staffed by lawyers who produce a daily update for clients and carry out initial research.

Some of these enquiries can be quite complicated, relating to the legal nature of loss and damage for example, while others relate to future domestic legislation that may be required to implement the Paris agreement.

Another LRI volunteer at COP21 is Caroline Dihl-Prolo, a lawyer from Brazil. Caroline studied environmental law in London and joined LRI in 2013 as an intern. She’s worked in LRI’s situation room, carrying out research and administration for the group, and has attended the last 3 COPs as a liaison officer. In Paris, Caroline is assisting Achala Abeysinghe, the legal and technical advisor to the LDC group in the talks, by attending informal meetings of nations to discuss specific issues in the text, and advising on drafting and interpretation.

“I think my advice is more useful when it comes to the very legal matters, like the preamble and how it will guide the agreement to come; entry into force, ratification, and issues related to the structure of the agreement,” Caroline says. “But of course I’m very keen on helping delegations understand what their options are in the form of the commitments and contributions under the agreement.”

LRI at COP 21 in Paris

29 November 2015

LDC Group Coordination meeting

LDC group coordination meeting

After a week of informal coordination and other meetings, the climate conference officially starts on Monday 30 November in Paris-le-Bourget. It is expected that at the end of the meeting, on Friday or Saturday 11/12 December, countries will adopt a new international agreement on climate.

There is a team of altogether 10 LRI lawyers in Paris. To date, they have helped the group of least developed countries (LDC) to prepare for the conference, and provided the legal training components to a workshop organised by the European capacity building initiative (ecbi) for junior delegates on Saturday.

During the next two weeks, they will be – as usual – supported by other volunteers in the London “Situation room” at Simmons & Simmons and many expert advisers from law firms, barrister chambers and universities.

Delegates should send their requests for advice and assistance to

During the conference you can also follow us on twitter at

LRI participated in pre-CCDA-V conference in Zimbabwe

28 October 2015

LRI participated in the Fifth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-V) held on 26 – 27 October in Victoria, Zimbabwe. The theme for the conference was “Shaping and implementing an ambitious, sustainable, equitable and legally binding climate agreement – the stakes for Africa?”.

Vic Falls (reduced)

In the lead up to COP 21 in Paris the workshop brought together African negotiators, parliamentarians and civil society representatives to discussed options on key issues pertaining to the 2015 agreement.

LRI was asked to present on the legal aspects of the agreement, including issues of compliance.

Many participants in the conference stressed the importance of the new agreement for Africa but also voiced concerns about its likely content and the little time remaining to finalise it.

The Chair of the Pan African Parliament’s Committee on Climate Change, Mr Awudu Cyprian Mbaya of Cameroon, underlined the need for legal expert support in developing climate legislation following COP 21 in Paris.

New LRI briefing paper: declarations in connection with the 2015 climate agreement

12 October 2015

On Monday 5 October the Co-Chairs of the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) issued a revised note on the content of the 2015 climate agreement (ADP.2015.8.InformalNote). It contains a draft agreement (section A) and a draft COP decision (B). The new ‘Draft Agreement’ comprises 26 articles on 9 pages that cover all the areas under negotiation (mitigation, adaptation, finance etc.).

However, many key issues are only addressed in very general terms and this may lead to a reinterpretation of the Parties’ existing rights and commitments under the UNFCCC (and the Kyoto Protocol), other international treaties or customary international law.

This trend has been a concern for many poor and climate vulnerable developing countries for a while. Following the publication of the “Co-Chairs’ tool” in July in preparation for the last ADP 2-10 session, several delegates asked for advice related to, for example, the following issues:

  • Under the UNFCCC developed country Parties have agreed to support the adaptation to climate change impacts in developing countries. However, there is no legal obligation on developing countries to adapt to the adverse (or other) effects of climate change. In view of this, some delegates were concerned that under the new agreement additional commitments for developing countries Parties could be introduced (without corresponding clear and predictable financial commitments by developed country Parties).
  • International lawyers increasingly agree that the principle of prevention or ‘no harm’ applies to climate change. As a result, states have a duty to ensure (with due diligence) that greenhouse gas emissions under their jurisdiction or control do not cause harm to the environment of other states or in areas beyond national jurisdiction. If states, however, agree to address loss and damage from climate change under a new treaty, the application of the general rules on transboundary harm may be limited.
  • For many years developing countries have been arguing in the climate negotiations that developed country Parties have obligations under Art.4 UNFCCC to provide additional financial resources including the transfer of technology. To date, they have not met these obligations and a new agreement may water down the initial responsibilities agreed and fall behind the rights and commitment under the Convention.

In response to these concerns, LRI advisers have prepared possible draft text for declarations on, for example, finance and technology transfer, adaptation and loss and damage. Declarations are statements made by a State when signing, ratifying or accepting an international treaty to clarify its understanding of the scope of the treaty or certain of its provisions. Unlike reservations, however, declarations do not alter the legal effects of the treaty on the party making the declaration. They are essentially of a political nature but may help to strengthen arguments and negotiating positions in the future.

The draft text has been compiled and organised in one briefing in French and English.

To help francophone delegations, LRI has produced an informal French translation of the Co-Chairs note. This is for information purposes only. Access Projet d’Accord 05.10.15

UNEP Portal developed in partnership with LRI launched this month

22 September 2015

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the Law and Environmental Ontology Portal (LEO) at the 6th Multilateral Environment Agreement Information and Knowledge Management (MEA IKM) Initiative Steering Committee Meeting, held from 15-17 September 2015, in Montreux, Switzerland.

The LRI was one of the partner organisations involved in developing and maintaining the content of the portal, among other specialised agencies and UN organizations.

The LEO Portal is open to everyone and is supplemented by the InforMEA’s e-learning tool, which provides open access courses that support users in the development of a comprehensive understanding of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).