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“This summit will be key in understanding the critical role lawyers have in the climate crisis”

Pressbild Becky.jpg

On April 18th, the Law and Climate Change Summit will take place. We've had the pleasure of interviewing Becky Annison, Head of Engagement at The Chancery Lane Project, who is one of the speakers at the conference.

Hi Becky, could you please provide a brief introduction about yourself

I trained at a London law firm before moving in-house upon qualification. I spent many happy years as a senior solicitor in a large international company, before joining Practical Law as a senior editor in their in-house practice area team. Now Head of Engagement at The Chancery Lane Project, I use my knowledge of contracting and law to tackle the climate crisis.

What motivated your involvement in the Chancery Lane Project, and how has this engagement influenced your perspective on climate change issues?

Climate has always been important to me but qualifying into commercial law I never managed to marry up my passion for the planet with my career. The Chancery Lane Project offered me a chance to use my legal skills to protect the environment in a unique way.

Since working with The Chancery Lane Project I now see how deeply climate change, the risks and impacts are threaded throughout legal practice. All the ways I thought it didn’t affect my day job because I was a commercial lawyer, not an environmental lawyer… all of that was wrong. To paraphrase Charles Dickens ‘climate change was my business’.

The project offers a wealth of resources, including 160 model clauses and 76 glossary entries, designed to align contracts with net-zero objectives. Could you provide specific examples of how these clauses and tools have been utilized in professional contexts?

Contracts create legal obligations. Climate targets are just aspirations, goals that are hard to enact once they conflict with profit margins, shareholder expectations and the general fire-fighting of any day job. Turning those goals into contractual obligations gives them an impetus and an energy to get them done. It creates short-term consequences that motivate us to achieve them.

The first example is how we must start using these tools as early as possible. If you want a supplier to align with your climate goals then you need to pick the right supplier. Using our due diligence questions in your tender process means you will be choosing a supplier who can help you meet your goals.

But awarding a tender to the right company doesn’t mean they will do what you need them to do, whether that is reporting carbon or reducing it. Our clauses treat these commitments like pricing or service specifications by making them into contractual commitments. Owen’s clause requires a supplier to set a net zero target for a contract and meet that target, with consequences for failure to encourage suppliers to comply. Turning the goal into a clear legal obligation with a pathway for getting it done.

You can’t simply take a full gold standard decarbonisation clause like Owen’s clause, put it into a contract and assume everything will work. There is a careful process of lining up the right engagement, training, board approvals, and due diligence to ensure that clauses make it into signed contracts and that the obligations in the clauses are delivered. This is where our guides come in. Giving a step-by-step process on setting the clauses up to be successful.

As a speaker at the Law and Climate Change Summit, what are your expectations for the event, and what specific topics do you plan to address during your presentation?

I am expecting lawyers to come out of this event having a better understanding of how the problem of climate change is our business.

I will be talking about how contracts fit into this landscape; how they are powerful enablers for change, how they are powerful blockers to change, and asking the question ‘how are your clients planning to reach net zero without using their contracts?’

I’m particularly keen to let lawyers know that time is running out for climate solutions and for us transaction lawyers it is running out even faster. Every contract signed today locks carbon into a business deal and, if we are not careful, we will look round and realise the opportunity to fix climate passed us by 5 years earlier when the last contract was signed.

Why do you believe it is important to attend the Law and Climate Change Summit, and what value can they derive from participating?

This summit will be key in understanding the critical role lawyers have in the climate crisis. Understanding that is hard and can be challenging but the beauty of an event like the Law and Climate Change Summit is how that understanding is immediately paired with a community and a network to support you in making the shift.

From your perspective, how should the legal sector evolve to become a more proactive tool in addressing climate change-related matters, and what role can legal professionals play in this transformation?

Lawyers need to advise on climate risk like they advise on any other risk to their clients. It permeates everything we do because climate is the terrain on which all human business happens. A purchase of a hotel business has a climate risk to the client, a financial transaction should be pricing in climate risk. Climate change is not a specialism, it isn’t a niche type of bond or a ‘nice to have’, it is woven throughout the transactions we do every day.

Read more about the conference and sign up here >

Publicerad 18 mar 2024

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