What COP28 means for climate lawyering in 2024

Lawyers can derive numerous crucial insights from COP28. Our founder, Matt Gingell, and our Head of Engagement, Becky Annison, provide commentary on its implications for climate lawyers.

Shifting sands

  • COP28 brought about significant legislative change, necessitating extensive contractual drafting. It is important to anticipate and actively plan for this to limit disruption.
  • This means keeping your contractual arrangements flexible; avoid committing to a fixed-term contract dependent on fossil fuels with no provision to terminate for a greener alternative.
  • The pace of change means that there might be better options available well before that contract ends

Advocacy gaps

  • During COP28, youth advocacy overshadowed senior management advocacy, who hold the levers of change.
  • Join a networking or advocacy group to maintain your education and upskilling on climate issues.
  • Early stage career lawyers can join Legal Voices for the Future. If there isn’t a suitable group for your level of experience or jurisdiction then consider starting one.

Look for solutions

  • As a lawyer, being commercially aware involves not just identifying barriers and risks but also suggesting solutions. The COP agreement, while a significant step, wasn’t fast enough to ensure a habitable world.
  • In our daily practice, closing the gap involves incorporating climate contracting and adding a ‘climate risks’ section to all advice, making climate considerations mainstream.

Systems not silos

  • Addressing climate change requires a systemic solution. For in-house lawyers, this involves engaging with all teams to gain a holistic view of how climate relates to the business and sharing the legal implications.
  • In private practice, fostering awareness could include a firmwide sustainability day covering advised emissions, the impact of climate risk on your practice areas, and sharing resources to upskill the firm.

Power of business

  • Businesses can move quickly, unlike the global political community. The more business shifts towards net zero, the more ambitious policies can be.
  • Your organisation or major clients may already set net-zero targets surpassing COP28. They require legal support to achieve these targets.
  • Have you checked your organisation/clients’ net-zero targets and inquired about legal assistance in reaching them?

Talking to doing

  • Statements are laudable, but their delivery and application are crucial.  Contracts remain the most practical tool for businesses to expedite decarbonisation across their value chains.
  • A business with a net-zero target likely moves faster than COP28.
  • What can lawyers do to assist businesses in closing that gap, focusing on contracting, due diligence, risk management, and providing general legal advice?

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