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!

Reaching out to Latin American lawyers

Some countries in Latin America have already enacted specific climate change laws (e.g. Mexico and Peru) while others (e.g. Chile) are in the process of developing new legislation. To raise the critical mass among legal experts in the region who can contribute to the legal implementation agenda at the domestic, regional and international levels a network of climate change lawyers is being set up in Latin America.

With the support of LRI, a pilot of the initiative will be implemented first in Brazil, spearheaded by lawyers Caroline Dihl Prolo and Flávia Bellaguarda. Caroline is an attorney and head of the environmental law practice at the Brazilian law firm Stocche Forbes. Flávia Bellaguarda is a qualified lawyer in Brazil, climate change officer at ICLEI SAMS and co-founder of the Youth Climate Leaders – a social enterprise for young leadership training on climate change.

Caroline, who has been collaborating with LRI and working in the UNFCCC negotiations for more than seven years says: “In this climate crisis era, the law can be a powerful instrument to address climate change risks and to adapt to changing climate realities.”

The initiative is, therefore, aimed at building capacity and sharing legal tools amongst practitioners in the region, with a view to building a network that can provide legal support to governments, parliamentarians, civil society and other actors to help ensure implementation of the Paris Agreement and pave the way for a low carbon economy on the national and regional scale.

The first step in building the network was a survey amongst lawyers in Brazil. In response to a targeted questionnaire and call for support, almost one hundred lawyers from different walks of life expressed an interest to further develop their legal knowledge in the climate change context. Some of them (22%) indicated to have no such expertise; half felt they had acquired some relevant legal knowledge as part of their academic education and research.

Training for junior negotiators in Addis

Mock negotiations

LRI contributed to a regional training workshop organised by the European Capacity Building Initiative (ecbi) for junior negotiators from Francophone and Anglophone Africa from 29 April to 03 May in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. LRI is one of the ecbi lead organisations (with Oxford Climate Policy and IIED).

The aim of the workshop was to help junior negotiators and national policymakers to improve their working understanding of the main relevant themes of the UNFCCC, the Paris Agreement and its implementations guidelines, to develop skills to effectively partake in the negotiations and translate outcomes into national level implementation.

Topics covered, to name but a few, ranged from introduction to UNFCCC legal architecture, to adaptation, transparency and compliance under the Paris implementation guidelines. Participants also had dedicated time to undertake group work and exchange national experiences and challenges, for example on the NDC process and on accessing climate finance. Last but not least, participants’ negotiating skills were reinforced through sessions of mock negotiation on real and live contentious issues likely to arise at the upcoming negotiations.