New Zealand Law Society - Seeking a just transition

Seeking a just transition

Seeking a just transition

Welcome to the Autumn 2021 edition of LawTalk and our themed edition focussed on climate change and the law. I’m a passionate advocate for the unique and impactful role lawyers can play in climate activism.

Working at the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa as a Law Reform and Advocacy Adviser has given me a close up view of the massive amount of volunteer energy and expertise that we have in our Profession for a range of causes.

On a global scale, the International Bar Association last year issued a call to arms on climate action urging lawyers to take on a leading role in “maintaining and strengthening the rule of law and supporting responsible, enlightened governance in an era marked by a climate crisis”.

Here in Aotearoa, I’ve seen first-hand the fearless work of groups like Lawyers for Climate Action NZ Inc. who are leading the charge for Kiwis. As the group’s President Jenny Cooper QC notes in our first feature article, “we’re all human beings on the same planet and this should be everyone’s number one priority to safeguard our future.” If you are struggling to figure out how you can get involved in climate action then LCANZI is an excellent place to start.

There’s no doubt that climate action is a big and complex issue – so we’ve made sure a range of different perspectives are reflected in this feature. Lawyers working on climate issues include in-house corporate teams, local authorities, litigators and law firms.

The role of lawyers is only likely to increase as the issue gains traction with more countries making declarations about the threat of climate change. We take a look at the legal enforceability of these declarations at a local and national level. The New Zealand government’s declaration of a national climate emergency in December last year alongside the carbon neutral public sector promise by 2025 sends a clear message, but how does New Zealand fare against other countries action on climate issues?

Increasing awareness of climate change has triggered litigation challenging government and industries to act. Dr Sam McGlennon looks at claims being brought around the world and explores how these cases are impacting businesses. We hear from three different lawyers about how they’re preparing for mandatory reporting of climate related financial disclosures.

Another significant regulatory change will be the impending Resource Management Act 1991 reforms. We hear how these may impact decision making at a local authority level from the Advocacy and Practice Integration Manager at Marlborough District Council.

Finally, we close our feature with a look at climate change through a te ao Māori perspective. Edmond Carrucan discusses how climate change will impact Māori identities.

In February the Climate Commission released their draft advice which proposes the first three emissions budgets for Aoteoroa, recommendations on our first emissions reductions plan, and finds that our Nationally Determined Contribution is not consistent with NZ’s commitment under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

However, the Commission is hopeful that if we take strong and decisive action to address climate change we can look forward to a “thriving climate-resilient and low emissions Aotearoa where our children thrive”.

I would like to see us create clear pathways for students and young lawyers coming up to work in climate law. Now, more than ever, we need to work collectively and seize this opportunity to safeguard the health of our planet and our people. I’m proud to be a lawyer, and like so many others am seeking to play my part in this great challenge of our time.

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