Climate Change Resoluion
In November 2023, the Council of the Law Society of Scotland passed the following resolution formally setting out the Society’s strong commitment to climate action at an organisational and sector-wide level.
Noting that in 2016 the United Kingdom ratified the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to hold the increase in global warming to "well below 2°C", and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels;
Noting further that the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 (as amended) sets out the legislative framework for emissions reduction, requiring Scotland to reach net zero emissions by 2045 and meet interim emission reduction targets;
Noting also the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Strategy to 2045 sets out a clear ambition for Scotland to be Nature Positive by 2030, and to have restored and regenerated biodiversity across the country by 2045;
Mindful that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed in its Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report that global emissions in 2030 implied by nationally determined contributions announced by October 2021 make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century and make it harder to limit warming below 2°C, and that rapid and far-reaching transitions across all sectors and systems are necessary to achieve deep and sustained emissions reductions and secure a liveable and sustainable future for all;
Recognising that the climate crisis is the most pressing issue of our time and failure to respond effectively will be disastrous for the earth’s current inhabitants and future generations, and is already impacting the world’s most vulnerable and the planet’s capacity to support a prosperous society and economy;
Recognising also the urgent need to act decisively to address the interrelated crises of biodiversity loss and climate change together and that the loss of species and degradation of our natural environment is an existential threat to humanity;
Acknowledging the essential role of the legal profession in strengthening and upholding the rule of law, human rights and access to justice which are jeopardised by the profound impacts of climate change and loss of biodiversity but which remain vital to our society as a whole to tackle the challenges ahead;
Emphasising that, as reflected in the International Bar Association’s International Principles on Conduct for the Legal Profession, solicitors are required to act in accordance with professional conduct rules of their jurisdiction, including treating clients’ interests as paramount;
Acknowledging that the fundamental role played by solicitors in effecting positive change in society, including by supporting their clients, their employers and their colleagues, must begin with positive change within the Law Society of Scotland ("the Society") and that the Society’s Strategy 2022 – 2027 already outlines the vital role the Society has in leading the profession in this area; and
Noting the International Bar Association’s Climate Crisis Statement made on the 5th of May 2020:
1. Commits to:
1.1 reducing our environmental footprint by looking at our activity and working practice;
1.2 building upon the positive gains of our new ways of working to continually reduce our carbon footprint; and
1.3 ensuring the climate crisis remains a central pillar of, and is embedded across, our strategy, as well as a key element in the Society’s own operations as a business.
2. Resolves to:
2.1 demonstrate leadership to the profession on climate change and sustainability by continuing to raise awareness of the climate crisis and the need for urgent action;
2.2 support the legal profession to incorporate climate conscious and socially responsible action into their day to day business operations;
2.3 provide support and information to solicitors on how to take climate change into account when advising clients, in a way which is compatible with their professional duties;
2.4 engage with new lawyers, from law students to NQs, in a variety of ways including hosting events on the law and climate crisis; the role of the legal professional and the climate crisis; and ensuring climate is covered in other areas of our wider educational offering;
2.5 engage with current and future climate change-related legislative, regulatory and policy reform so far as it impacts on the practice of law, access to justice and the rule of law;
2.6 collaborate with regulators, bar associations, other professional bodies, academics, non-governmental bodies, legal networks and others with a focus on addressing the climate crisis; and
2.7 provide timely reports on the steps taken to meet these commitments, the outcomes of such steps and share our learning with the legal profession.
3. Urges solicitors to engage in climate conscious legal practice by:
3.1 continuing legal education on matters pertaining to climate change; and
3.2 considering how to take climate change into account when advising clients, in a way which is compatible with their professional duties.
4. Urges law firms, legal teams and organisations that support the legal industry to operate in a way which aids efforts to limit the increase in global warming by:
4.1 supporting positive changes in the workplace, including: the adoption of more sustainable practices, practical measures and policies to reduce the environmental impact of their business or organisation; and
4.2 discussing openly the steps taken to meet these commitments and the outcomes of such steps.
5. Encourages solicitors, law firms and organisations that support the legal industry to take a holistic and proactive approach to mitigating the climate crisis and promoting climate change adaptation by taking action which includes:
5.1 focusing on ways in which they can advance net zero targets, such as through clean energy, green real estate, environmental, social and corporate governance frameworks (ESG), sustainable finance law and similar climate related aspects; and
5.2 engaging with current and future legislative and policymaking efforts to mitigate the climate crisis and protect the human rights of those most affected by it and promoting the development and application of legal rules, transparency requirements and policies in a manner that is consistent with climate change mitigation and the climate commitments under international treaties and domestic law.