With the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, otherwise known as COP26, arriving in Glasgow in November 2021, we are encouraging the profession to consider the role and responsibilities that law and lawyers play in the work to be done around climate change.

COP26 has been described, scientifically and politically, as a critical moment to focus attention on the climate change agenda. The conference intends to unite action globally by strengthening countries’ ability to handle the impact of climate change and to monitor progress towards delivery of the 2015 Paris Agreement commitments. These include keeping the global temperature rise well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, with efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5ºC.

Impact on the legal profession

Solicitors are involved in advising clients and/or their employers on a range of matters associated with climate change, as well as considering the environmental impact of their own businesses and activities. We need to understand the challenges which are ahead, and ensure we are prepared for opportunities to influence and inform policy and legislative development in this area. So as the eyes of the world turn to Glasgow this autumn, we are looking at what action the profession and the Society can, and should, be taking.

A survey of our members towards the end of 2020, showed that climate change raises a number of issues for the legal profession, including the practical issues around the conference itself. The survey findings also highlighted that our members are interested in climate change issues for both personal and professional reasons, including advising clients or in-house teams on related matters. Post COP26, the Society will be taking the opportunity to consider the legacy for lawyers and the legal profession in Scotland. 

The Society's COP26 and Climate Change Working Group

In 2020 we established the COP26 and Climate Change Working Group, which includes volunteers from across existing Law Society committees with varied policy interests including environment, energy, finance, planning, marine, employment and equalities, technology, and criminal law. The working group will provide policy direction for the Society on climate change – in particular, it is setting high level direction for consultation responses led by its committees. It is raising the profile of climate change within the legal profession – in particular, highlighting the cross-cutting nature of climate change as it affects a number of sectors across the profession.

If you are keen to find out more about our work please get in touch at policy@lawscot.org.uk.

Meet the working group

The Society's COP26 and Climate Change Working Group Convener, Emma Dixon, and group member Angela Daly, talk to Gillian Mawdsley and Alison McNab, Policy Executives at the Society, about why it was important to set up a working group to specifically look at the impact COP26 conference will have, including some of the practical issues arising from such a large scale conference, and how climate change issues will affect the profession in the short and longer term.

Scroll down to read more in our blogs and articles from members of the working group and others involved in COP26 and climate change work. 

Volunteering as a climate change researcher

Claire McIntyre, a part-time LLB student with the Open University, talks about her experience of volunteering with the university and Environmental Law Foundation as part of a climate change research project.

Climate change, inequality and the profession

This further article ahead of the COP26 conference looks at the connection between climate change and inequality, and the responsibility on the legal profession to play its part in addressing both

The Net-zero Journey: time to get off the merry-go-round?

Neil Amner, a member of the Society’s Environmental and Marine law sub-committees and the COP26 & Climate Change Working Group, writes about some of the challenges that will need to be addressed in our journey to net-zero carbon emissions.

Climate action: positive steps for progressive lawyers

Do you feel you should be doing something to reduce your business carbon footprint, but don’t know where to start? We offer some practical advice on forming a commercial climate change strategy

COP26: a challenge for 2021

Ahead of the Glasgow climate change summit in November this year, the Society’s survey of members’ attitudes to the subject is helping with plans to develop their interest

Law, Sustainability and Technology: Welcoming COP to Scotland

Professor Abbe Brown from Aberdeen University looks at the themes of making practices more environmentally sustainable, advising clients on environmental sustainability and climate justice, and the potential clashes with other values and laws following the Society’s Law and Technology Conference.

COP26: working in support

A “call to arms” to the profession to become involved, as the Society sets up a group on climate change ahead of the now delayed global summit in Scotland

Cop26: Protest, policing and the law

Following our conference on Policing operations and COP26, our Policy Executive Gillian Mawdsley blogs about some of the issues to consider and highlights some cases arising from individuals making a protest.

Becoming a climate change lawyer

Alasdair Cameron is a recent graduate from Edinburgh University's Global Environmental and Climate Change Legal Masters Course and now works at the Law Society of England & Wales as their first Climate Change Resource Adviser within their Policy Team. In his blog, Alasdair discusses his academic trajectory as a recent law graduate entering the field of climate change policy.

Planning For Net-Zero

Sarah Baillie, a partner at Addleshaw Goddard, writes about the key role of the planning system in meeting net-zero targets in Scotland.

Digitalisation and renewable energies – sustainability and governance in Scotland

Angela Daly, a member of the Society's Technology Law and Practice Committee and the COP26 Climate Change Working Group, writes with her research team about the role of digitalisation in ensuring the safety and sustainability of renewable energy systems.

Napier University student wins essay competition on climate change and the law

Napier University student Lewis Hay wins Law Society competition on climate change and the law

 

  1. Provide policy direction for the Society on climate change – in particular, setting high level direction for consultation responses and work led by policy committees and sub-committees.

 

  1. Continue to raise the profile of climate change within the profession – in particular, highlighting the cross-cutting nature of climate change and that this is an issue for a number of sectors of the profession.

 

  1. Help to identify opportunities for the Society to engage with COP26 and climate change more generally

 

  1. Practical impacts of COP26 – for example, commercial impacts, security and civil order/policing issues, impacts on solicitors’ businesses and life generally in the city.