Legal birthday bash for Paris Agreement

14 December 2020

The Paris Agreement to combat climate change was adopted on 12 December 2015. To mark the occasion, LRI held a one-hour Zoom webinar for leading climate lawyers from around the globe who presented their ideas (in 3 minutes each) for the next steps in the UNFCCC process, specifically in the leadup and during COP26 in the UK in 2021. You can watch the recording on youtube at and access a summary report of the event at

Speakers included:

• Michael Burger, Sabin Centre for Climate Change Law in the US
• Augustine Njamnshi, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)
• Dennis van Berkel, Urgenda Foundation
• Hitomi Kimura, Otsuma Women’s University
• Megan Bowman, King’s College London
• Rueanna Haynes, Climate Analytics
• Selam Abebe, Legal Adviser African Group of Negotiators, and
• Farhana Yamin Founder Track 0 & and second on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour Power List in 2020, as well as many others.

Some participants suggested new initiatives in the negotiations to, for example, operationalise the global adaptation goal (Selam Abebe) or the establishment of an independent expert group to assess whether NDCs are in line with equity and common but differentiated responsibilities (Dennis van Berkel). Monica Feria-Tinta (a barrister at Twenty Essex Chambers) underlined the need for domestic legal systems that address human rights violations due to climate change. Megan Bowman of King’s College London argued that every public sector investment decision needs to take account of Article 2.1 c) of the Paris Agreement which envisages the redirection of financial flows in line with low carbon development.

Augustine Njamnshi (Pan African Climate Justice Alliance) called for a trust building dialogue amongst parties during the COP in Glasgow to accept past responsibilities and move jointly into a new direction based on empathy. Other issues covered during the event included the role of best available science, intergenerational equity and zero emissions as well as a rights-based ecosystem approach for a just recovery and climate litigation.

Briefing on climate framework laws in Latin America

4 December 2020

LRI has published a comparative legal analysis of climate framework laws in Latin America and their alignment with the Paris Agreement. The new briefing paper authored by a group of LRI lawyers led by Olivia Tattarletti assesses if, and to what extent, the laws reviewed meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement and, on that basis, identifies gaps and achievements. It draws lessons from the laws reviewed and offers recommendations for future legislative interventions.

It is nearly 5 years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement and nearly 2 years since a set of further rules for its implementation were adopted. So, how are countries who are Parties to the Agreement pursuing their commitments at the domestic level? The Agreement does not specify how Parties are to do this. In practice, they will pursue a range of approaches depending on national circumstances and priorities, and rely on a mix of policy, law and regulations.

This new briefing paper reviews one of the potential approaches – framework laws. Climate framework legislation could provide the “legal backbone” for dealing, at the national level, with the global climate problem in decades to come. The comparative analysis presented in the paper examines how the climate change framework laws of Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras and Paraguay compare to each other when implementing the main substantive provisions of the Paris Agreement. The conclusions and recommendations offered thereafter aim to support developing country governments in the domestic implementation of the Agreement.

Putting the law at the heart of the Paris Agreement

25 November 2020

The Paris Agreement to combat climate change was adopted on 12 December 2015. To mark its fifth anniversary LRI will be holding a one-hour Zoom event to hear voices of the global legal community on priority issues that need to be addressed, specifically during COP26 in the UK in 2021, in order for the Paris Agreement to succeed.

The event will take place on Thursday 10 December 14:00 – 15:00 UTC/GMT = 9 am Eastern Standard Time (EST), 15:00 Central European Time (CET), 16:00 Central African Time (CAT), 19:30 Indian Standard Time (IST), 22:00 China Standard Time (CST) and 22:00 Australian Western Standard Time (AWST).

About 10 to 15 climate lawyers from around the globe will have 3 minutes each to raise one issue that they consider a priority in the further implementation of the Paris Agreement. Contributions will be short, focused and strictly limited to 3 minutes and 15 seconds.

There will be about 30 places to register for the event on Zoom and to contribute to the discussion and the chat. After the initial list of speakers is concluded other registered participants will be able to put their suggestions forward too. Please register here if you would like to make one.

The event will be chaired by the former UK Supreme Court Justice Lord Carnwath. It will be live-streamed on youtube at

Law & sustainability colloquium at Peking University

22 October 2020

You can now watch the event on youtube at

On 4 November, the day after the US presidential election when the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement takes effect (unless revoked beforehand) LRI’s director Christoph Schwarte will speak “at” Peking University.

In his presentation “International climate change law and negotiations in times of COVID-19” Christoph will reflect on how the global pandemic may affect the international body of law related to climate change. He will offer some observations on recent legal trends and the wider social discourse, provide an overview on the specific challenges for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and also make a few suggestions for the future.

The event is the first session in a new online lecture series by the School of Transnational Law – the “Law and Sustainability Colloquium”. You can watch the event live from 17:30 to 18:30 China time and 9:30 to 10:30 GMT at https:/ To participate in the chat and ask a question you need to register here:

Responding to climate change and COVID-19

2 September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the interdependency of human action, our natural world and the economy. It has also exacerbated vulnerabilities and inequalities, and brought home the message that we share one and the same planet. 

As countries start bringing the pandemic under control and turn their attention to re-starting their economies, it is becoming clear that for the recovery to be durable and resilient, a return to business-as-usual is not an option. “Biodiversity, climate and health must be addressed holistically… to build back better and greener“ was one of the messages of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, held on 17 July 2020 under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council.

This will require a host of interventions on health, agriculture, access to clean water, wildlife trade, deforestation, social protection, disaster risk reduction programmes  … to name but a few. It also presents opportunities for reconsidering priorities as part of recovery packages. For example, a focus on inclusiveness and a just transition for measures with environmental objectives; or a recalibration of financial resources away from ‘only’ disaster preparedness and response towards disaster prevention.

In this context, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction provide formally separate platforms for action. They share many objectives, however, including strengthening resilience, building adaptive capacity and reducing vulnerability to climate change and disasters.

A recent LRI advice paper provides an overview of some of the links between the different instruments and highlights opportunities for consolidated action. In the wake of the pandemic, the need for coherence of action is more critical than ever: governments are not responding to COVID-19 and its effects in isolation and need to mainstream climate change and disaster preparedness into economic recovery programmes.

There is a unique opportunity for bold and unprecedented leadership on the climate crisis and broader ecological crisis. Decisions made about the recovery from COVID-19 will shape our societies for years to come. Now is not the time to go back to old habits, but instead to pair the recovery with action on the climate and ecological crises and to build resilience against future shocks.

Governments should strategically use this opportunity to create an enabling environment for the alignment of different policy processes. This could include the integration of processes to develop nationally determined contributions (NDCs), national adaptation plans (NAPs), strategies for achieving SDGs and disaster risk reduction strategies into economic stimulus packages. For this to happen, coordination of relevant ministries and departments and across levels of government will be key. 

The call for doing things differently may also apply to the UNFCCC process that routinely flies thousands of people across the globe. During the pandemic, technical meetings and discussions took place virtually but all decision-making sessions had to be postponed: during the negotiations, decisions are taken by consensus only and final agreement is forged in physical meetings including the infamous ‘huddles’. So, after over 20 years of deliberations, might it be finally time to adopt the rules of procedure and a provision that allows for qualified majority decisions by electronic voting?