Contracts, clauses and climate change: the net zero toolkit
1. How will net zero affect the legal profession?
Climate change is the defining issue of this century. Our survival and civilisation depends on taking climate action now.
Humanity has never faced a crisis of this magnitude and complexity.
The shift in behaviour needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change is unprecedented in terms of the:
- scale of the changes
- speed with which they must be completed
Lawyers need to be at the forefront of this action.
We know how to manage risks and codify clauses to reflect the actions parties need to take for the best outcome. We need to step up to the plate and help our clients navigate their net zero transitions as well as transform our own businesses to do the same.
President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, recently made a speech to the American Bar Association where he told delegates that “You are all climate lawyers now”.
That really sums it up.
The legal profession needs to start taking account of climate change risks and their consequences in every transaction and agreement.
Tackling the climate crisis is not a niche specialism – it’s a job for all of us.
For the lawyers that embrace this additional dimension to their role early on, there are opportunities.
Many businesses are at the start of their net zero journey, and are looking for help in making that transition – that translates to billable hours to advise in a way that doesn’t harm the planet.
2. What does the Chancery Lane Project do and what is the net zero toolkit?
The Chancery Lane Project (TCLP) is a pro bono initiative.
It’s dedicated to creating and providing free, accessible contractual clauses to help organisations address their climate risks and impacts, and to achieve their net zero ambitions.
TCLP’s net zero toolkit helps lawyers, corporates and other Race To Zero participants take action today to achieve their net zero targets.
3. What type of lawyers are the tools and clauses TCLP develops useful for?
The short answer is every type of lawyer.
We have over 100 climate clauses freely available to everyone.
The clauses cover multiple practice areas and sectors – everything from commercial and corporate to real estate and dispute resolution.
The clauses oblige parties to:
- set greenhouse gas (GHG) targets
- monitor and reduce their GHG emissions
- undertake projects that use renewable power
- avoid developments that will reduce the impact of natural carbon sinks, and more
4. What steps could a lawyer take today?
We recently heard someone talk about contracts as the DNA of commercial relationships.
We really like that image as it neatly illustrates why contracts are such an important leverage point in the transition to net zero.
Using contracts to address an organisation’s climate impact and risk means that climate becomes a key consideration in the actions parties take.
Contracts have two major advantages over other climate interventions (for example, law or policy):
- they can be tailored to an individual organisation’s own net zero journey
- they can be amended today to make immediate changes
This means parties can start making greenhouse gas reductions immediately.
The timeframes for taking action to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis are incredibly tight; this is a really important reason for using contracts to achieve net zero.
TCLP is unique because its resources enable lawyers to take action on climate change, immediately, without significant retraining and without moving jobs.
Three short steps to meaningful climate action
5. What do lawyers need to be aware of and what challenges lie ahead on the path to net zero?
The toolkit provides lawyers with some really useful resources to help them understand the challenges of the net zero transition.
The net zero implementation tools in the toolkit explain the key elements of an ambitious net zero target. The net zero drafting checklist provides lawyers with a framework to use when drafting or negotiating net zero concepts in contracts.
These are not easy issues to grapple with.
TCLP aims to support lawyers on their net zero journey.
Together we can achieve a world where every contract facilitates zero carbon solutions rather than adopting a high carbon business-as-usual path.