Lawyers ramp up efforts to use law to fight climate change

Gingell: Collective effort

The Chancery Lane Project, a global collaboration of lawyers looking to fight climate change, has published the latest set of model contract clauses, which it says are increasingly being taken up.

One, a green tenancy clause, encourages landlords and tenants to reuse materials or use recycled or reclaimed materials when making alterations or repairs under their leases.

The project was launched in November 2019, following a legal hackathon at the London offices of Thomson Reuters, and published its first model contract clauses in February 2020. The latest 21 take the total to 71,

The clauses have been downloaded 55,000 times in 73 countries, and 700 lawyers from 140 law firms and other organisations have been involved in developing and using them.

The project said a national environmental regulator had used the clauses in its standard form supplier contracts, while a “top tier global law firm” had included clauses relating to sustainability-linked loans in a banking toolkit.

Meanwhile a multi-national energy company had included climate-related clauses in their standard non-disclosure agreement.

“In each case the inclusion of TCLP clauses has been into the organisation’s standard forms and precedents, meaning that this wording will be replicated every time those documents are used to negotiate a specific agreement,” it said.

Another of the new clauses, developed at a global hackathon sponsored by Thomson Reuters last October, links executive incentive awards to meeting environmental, social and governance targets for reducing emissions.

Another helps parties reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their transactions by “reducing unnecessary business travel and other environmentally unfriendly practices”.

TCLP has the backing of retired Supreme Court justice Lord Carnwath, the Law Society, Bar Council and legal pressure group Client Earth.

Matthew Gingell, general counsel at Oxygen House Group and chair of the project’s steering group, said: “No one person or organisation has all the answers. It is about a collective effort to find them. We believe all lawyers can make a difference: from corporate solicitors to human rights barristers.

“Our laws and contracts have until now allowed and encouraged humans to live unsustainably. But those laws and contracts are human inventions.

“The Chancery Lane Project shows us when we collaborate without an agenda we can create the solutions needed to tackle the climate crisis.”

The group is currently building a ‘net zero toolkit’ for publication in advance of COP26, the UN climate change conference taking place in November in Glasgow. It will feature both the existing clauses, “updated to raise their net zero ambition”, and new clauses coming out of our its 2021 events.

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