‘Closing the Circle on Climate Change’ 1st June 2020
Covid 19 has impacted every aspect of our professional and personal lives. Across all professions and businesses, talk is now of the ‘new normal’ of a safe return to work and post the pandemic and what that might look like. Addressing the climate emergency must be central to that new way of working. Lawyers and law firms have adapted to an alternative way of working, time in front of a screen has replaced time commuting with the obvious environmental benefits that brings. Overnight, ideas that the Legal Sustainability Alliance (LSA) has been advocating for the last 14 years such as reducing air travel and cutting carbon emissions from plant and practices, have become operational everyday practice.
Pollution levels are down, air quality is visibly improved, wildlife is returning to urban landscapes and nature is regenerating. Carbon emissions are predicted to be down in 2020 by between 4-7% which although not huge, it is a significant shift towards helping the UK to achieve its Net Zero targets by 2050. This shutdown is not desirable, the pain and loss of Covid 19 are immense and not the route any of us would have chosen to address climate catastrophe. We do however have to learn the lessons, both for public health and the environment, as well as to see how we can move forwards sustainably.
The LSA is at the forefront of this agenda for the legal profession as a UK network of over 180 law firms supported by the Law Society which seeks to encourage the profession to work more sustainably and to reduce its impact on the planet, not just be reducing emissions but through changed behaviours by working collaboratively with clients and colleagues to share best practice.
At the LSA we would argue that as influencers and leaders, lawyers have the ability to support and challenge themselves, their clients and the policy makers to move this agenda forward. The pandemic shows that we are globally connected and climate change, like Covid, has the power to affect us all. The legal profession has a key role to play. Sustainable business is good business and will of itself become the “new normal”.
The success of The Chancery Lane Project launched in late 2019 which has now, with the help of thousands of hours of pro bono time, created the Climate Contract Playbook and the Green Paper of Model Laws. Both are evidence that “the legal community has a responsibility to ensure the whole machinery of law, public and private, is brought into line with the objective of a just transition to a climate resilient and net zero emissions economy” as Lord Robert Carnwath, CVO, Justice of the Supreme Court says in his foreword to the first edition of the playbook.
As Greta Thunberg says ‘if not now then when? If not you then who?’ This call to action matters now more than ever.
Caroline May, Partner Legal Sustainability Alliance Co Chair LSA
Matt Sparkes, Head of CR Linklaters, Co Chair LSA