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The role lawyers can play in addressing the climate crisis

By Dr. Joanne Cracknell | February 1, 2022

This article explores the climate change resolution recently published by The Law Society to help law firms achieve net zero.
ESG and Sustainability|Financial, Executive and Professional Risks (FINEX)
Climate Risk and Resilience|Legal PI Risk Management

With the beginning of a brand new year upon us and resolutions being made, now is a good time for the legal profession to address the climate crisis. We are witnessing the disastrous impacts of the ongoing climate crisis and observed the G7 leaders facing a challenging time in agreeing a way forward to address climate change at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021.

The Law Society has published a climate change resolution1 to support lawyers develop a climate-conscious approach to the way they practice and provide legal services. This article explores the resolution and how it can help law firms achieve net zero by 2050.

The Threat

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report sets out the already devastating impact of climate change and the global consequences if changes are not rapidly made to limit global warming to 1.5°C, but to maintain this the “global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45% from the 2010 levels by 2030; reaching net zero around 2050”2.

If global warming is not limited to 1.5°C, the results will be catastrophic and result in:

  • Extreme drought and water scarcity
  • An increase in extreme weather events
  • Species and biodiversity loss and extinction
  • Reductions in cereal crop yields and threats to food security.
The Climate Change Resolution

Almost a third of the UK’s largest businesses have pledged to eliminate their contribution to carbon emissions by 2050. Those businesses will be looking at their lawyers to reflect these values by operating more sustainably and combat climate change by adopting practical measures and policies to reduce the climate impact of their business and to highlight how they are going to tackle climate change.

The Law Society acknowledges that the legal profession can play a crucial role in mitigating the climate crisis through positive societal change, which lawyers can achieve through strengthening and upholding the rule of law, human rights and access to justice all of which are vital for society.

The Law Society has resolved to support lawyers to be fully informed about how they can mitigate the climate crisis by offering guidance, including educational tools and resources to help the legal profession achieve this in a way that is compatible with their professional duties and the administration of justice.

The Law Society also resolves to actively collaborate with regulators, bar associations, other professional bodies and legal networks focused on eliminating the climate crisis and report on the steps taken and share its learning with the legal profession.

How can lawyers help to combat the climate crisis?

In its Climate Change Resolution the Law Society is urging the legal profession to engage in climate conscious legal practice by:-

  • Continuing educating lawyers and making them aware of matters pertaining to climate change
  • Approaching any matter arising in the course of legal practice with regard to the likely impact of that matter upon the climate crisis
  • Providing competent advice to clients explaining how they can achieve their objectives in a way that mitigates the effects of climate change and promotes adaptation to climate change, at the same time as identifying any potential legal risks and liabilities that may arise from action or inaction that negatively contributes to the climate crisis
  • Advising clients, where applicable, about the benefits of disclosing climate-related risks and opportunities related to their entire business operation (including supply chains) when reporting to regulators, investors, and stakeholders about how they have assessed, monitored and mitigated and reported climate related risks

In addition, law firms and organisations that support the legal profession are urged to operate in a way which limits global warming to 1.5°C by:

  • Adopting science-based targets to reduce the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions associated with operating a legal practice
  • Adopting practical measures to reduce the environmental impact of their business and policies which mitigate their contribution to the climate crisis; and
  • Publicly reporting the steps taken and outcomes of achieving these commitments

Law firms are also encouraged to take a holistic and proactive approach to mitigating the climate crisis and promoting climate change by:

  • Supporting their lawyers who choose to specialise or enhance their practice area in distinct disciplines related to climate change such as clean energy, green real estate, ESG and sustainable finance law
  • Engaging in climate change dispute resolution that ensures affordable access to justice for those negatively affected by the climate crisis
  • Engaging in pro bono activities
  • 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

By having a strong understanding of the risks from global warming and what net zero means, together with following the climate change resolution, lawyers and law firms have a pivotal role to play in the change needed to tackle the climate crisis.

The WTW Climate and Resilience Hub is the focal point for our climate expertise and capabilities, pooling knowledge from across our people, risk and capital businesses and from our collaborations to deliver climate and resilience solutions in response to a range of regulatory, investor, consumer, employee and operating pressures.


1 The Law Society. (2021). Creating a climate-conscious approach to legal practice. Retrieved from

2 IPCC (2021). Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governmentsernments. Retrieved from:


Director - PI FINEX Legal Services


Risk Management Matters Winter 2022

This article is apart of our 2022 edition of Risk Management Matters: Winter edition. You may access the full document here.

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