Madrid Climate Change Conference

16 December 2019

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

14 October 2019

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”.

Launch of LACLIMA

3 October 2019

A network of climate change lawyers in Latin America was launched in Sao Paulo on September 7th 2019. With more than 130 members in Brazil so far, LACLIMA – Latin American Climate Lawyers Initiative for Mobilizing Action – aims to gather  lawyers from other Latin American countries, to build a critical mass in the legal community in the region, which can support regional stakeholders in understanding the legal implications of the Paris Agreement commitments at the regional level and help them translating these into action on the ground.

The initiative is supported by LRI as a sister organization, and is spear-headed by Caroline Prolo, head of environmental practice at the Brazilian law firm Stocche Forbes and long-time LRI liaison officer, in collaboration with Flávia Bellaguarda, climate change officer at ICLEI SAMS and co-founder of the Youth Climate Leaders – a social enterprise for young leadership training on climate change.

The launch event provided an opportunity for the members of the network to meet and, with other climate change experts and prominent speakers, to reflect on what role lawyers can play to promote implementation of the Paris Agreement at the regional level.

Regional training workshop for Asia and the Pacific

13 August 2019

From 31 July – 1 August 2019 another European Capacity Building Initiative (ecbi) training workshop for junior negotiators took place in Kathmandu, Nepal. Almost 40 government officials from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Malaysia, Vanuatu and other climate vulnerable developing countries in Asia and the Pacific region attended the workshop.

LRI contributed presentations on legal terminology and the Paris Agreement’s reporting and compliance framework to the programme. The workshop also included a general introduction to the UNFCCC process, an outlook on the months ahead and specific subject areas (e.g. mitigation and Article 6) as well as a negotiation simulation exercise. This was chaired by the new chair of the LDC group in the UNFCCC negotiation, Mr Sonam Phuntsho Wangdi from Bhutan.

London lawyers, climate change and justice

8 July 2019

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!