What does COP26 stand for?

It stands for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to be held in Glasgow from 1- 21 November 2021, having been delayed through the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK is hosting the main event with Italy hosting the preliminary meetings. COP26 is described as the largest summit ever to be held by the UK. Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is the COP26 President.

COP26 is important in the climate change arena because those countries that signed the Paris Agreement on climate change must present new targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

What does COP26 mean for the profession?

COP26 provides the focus for the Society’s latest Working Group. The Group, including representatives from a range of the Society’s committees such as Public Policy, Environmental Law; Energy Law; Criminal Law; Equality and Diversity; Banking, Company & Insolvency, Technology Law and Practice and Competition, met for the first time on 15 July 2020. The number of committees’ interests alone emphasises the crucial cross-cutting message that COP26 is and should be of interest across the legal profession.

The Group is exploring and considering how the Society can best promote and support the members’ interests in COP26 and with the wider climate change agenda.

Within the context of the Society’s statutory duty of working in the public interest, by supporting COP26 policy development and law reform relating to climate change, the Society will engage with the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments, Parliaments, wider stakeholders and in return, seek to raise awareness of the issues for our membership.

What does COP26 mean for the solicitor?

The Group will define this in its terms of reference to be agreed and published shortly along with exploring opportunities to inform and influence within its work plan as we move towards COP26 in November 2021. Ideas being considered meantime include:

  • How do fundamental legal rights align with the legal rights presented through climate change? For some, this may already be part of legal advice provided for clients.
  • How will the practical impact of hosting COP26 affect commercial interests and civil order/policing and on solicitors’ businesses?
  • How should “climate law” be defined and how does impact on business targets requiring mitigation/adaptation strategies?
  • How can the governments’ commitments be scrutinised and held to account?

By sharing developing expertise and practice and promoting innovation within our own role and more broadly, within our profession, we can seek to demonstrate our commitment to and knowledge of the climate change agenda.

How can you help?

The Group is to meet again shortly and will agree its terms of reference, develop a work plan and consider opportunities for further stakeholder engagement. Plans include further updates going forward.

Meanwhile if you are involved and/or interested in COP26 and climate change, the group would welcome your ideas and support. Please let us know if you have any comments or ideas, require more information or have a specific expertise, by getting in touch - email policy@lawscot.org.uk.

Influencing the law and policy

One of the main functions of our policy team, along with our network of volunteers, is to analyse and respond to proposed changes in the law.