The rule of law and the environment

On Tuesday 11 June, we hosted a breakfast seminar on the rule of law and the environment.

Vice president Simon Davis welcomed representatives from the government legal department, firms, in-house lawyers, students and non-governmental organisations.

Tim Smith, chair of the Law Society's Planning and Environmental Law Committee and partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, chaired an expert panel who explored the future of UK environmental law.

Speakers

  • Amanda Carpenter, director at the Legal Sustainability Alliance
  • Caroline May, head of environment, health and safety at Norton Rose Fulbright; Planning and Environmental Law Committee member
  • Matthew Gingell, general counsel at Oxygen House Group
  • Tom West, UK environment lead at ClientEarth

Overview

Amanda Carpenter – UN Sustainable Development Goals

Amanda spoke on how the newer generation of lawyers are increasingly interested in the corporate social responsibilities of their employers, particularly regarding the environment.

Businesses can help to engage them by making clear how they aim to meet certain parts of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Caroline May – What firms can do

Caroline observed that very few firms are "on top of" their environmental program, or at "the cutting edge" of combating climate change, although many believe themselves to be.

She said that all firms should start by measuring their carbon footprint, as this is an effective first step in minimising environmental impact.

Matthew Gingell – Role of in-house lawyers

Matthew examined the social value of lawyers and firms, highlighting their possession of the "skills, means and opportunities to do more".

He praised the shift by some big businesses to renewable energy, and their contribution to producing carbon sinks.

Tom West – Draft Environment Bill

Tom characterised the Draft Environment Bill as an opportunity, but one that comes with two very clear challenges: Brexit, and the ecological and climate crisis.

He argued that the enforcement gap between the proposed Office for Environmental Protection and the European Court of Justice and European Commission needs to be closed.

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