British lawyers aid climate teams

LRI’s trainees in London: But many more need the same chance
Image: Christoph Schwarte

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE British lawyers are giving a week of their time and expertise to equip colleagues from the developing world to play an effective part in the complex UN climate negotiations. LONDON, 1 April – To help poor countries to play an effective part in the UN’s global climate negotiations, a group of UK lawyers are spending this week sharing their expertise with colleagues from across the developing world. Seven lawyers who are members of their countries’ national negotiation teams at the climate talks are meeting at a City of London law firm, Simmons & Simmons, which is providing help in kind, for five days of legal training by leading UK practitioners and academics. The training programme has been organised by the Legal Response Initiative (LRI). Its chairman Nick Flynn, an environmental lawyer, says: “The international climate negotiations are amongst the most complicated and complex multilateral law processes ever. “Meetings are often characterised by technical jargon, conflicting interpretations of legal obligations and the use of procedural rules.” The week will include sessions on the international climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the labyrinthine workings of its annual meeting, the Conference of the Parties. The international community has agreed to reach a new climate deal by 2015. Before then developing countries will be able to put their concerns and needs on the table. But to make compelling arguments, draft sound legal texts and forge compromises they need a good understanding of public international law and the international legal framework on climate. Richard Dyton, a partner at Simmons & Simmons, says: “In order to give least developed and other particularly vulnerable countries that have hardly contributed to the problem and are already seriously affected by climate change a fair deal, we cannot allow their delegations to be regularly ‘outgunned’ by the legal teams of industrialised nations and emerging economies.” The training participants are from Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Papua-New Guinea, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. After they return from London, some of them will hold further training workshops for colleagues back home. The training programme is sponsored and funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and the Dutch Government through the Climate Development Knowledge Network. Ironically, an eighth would-be participant – a lawyer from Ethiopia – was refused a visa to enter Britain by another branch of the UK Government.

“The climate talks are not a fair and equitable decision-making process”

The Legal Response Initiative works through a network of 160 lawyer associates in 15 countries or territories who provide free legal advice to developing countries and civil society observer organisations in connection with the climate talks. It also provides on-the-spot advice when the talks are in session. Christoph Schwarte, LRI’s executive director, says this is the first time it has tried to build the capacity of lawyers from the South. “There’s a massive gap”, he says. “Rather than us constantly giving advice, it should be lawyers in the countries themselves who give the advice, and we’re trying to build more of a southern network. “I try to be realistic, and I don’t think we’ll ever level the playing field. The climate talks are not a fair and equitable decision-making process. These guys run around like mad participating in the negotiations, but they have so much else on their plates as well – they’re working on human rights, trade, protecting the natural world. “Lawyers are quite keen to be involved in LRI. They have a good sense of justice, and they appreciate the opportunity to make a contribution to global justice through the Initiative.” In Durban in 2011, governments agreed to work towards a new international agreement on climate, to be completed by 2015 and to enter into force from 2020. During 2012 the negotiations were often bogged down by procedural issues. They will continue in Germany from 29 April to 3 May. The Climate Development Knowledge Network works to support decision-makers in designing and delivering climate-compatible development, with British and Dutch Government funding. – Climate News Network