Lawyers should be ‘ethically obliged’ to inform clients of climate risks, open letter says
Lawyers have said the legal sector should be forced to inform their clients of the legal risks of investing in projects that are inconsistent with efforts to keep global warming below 1.5˚C
In an open letter, more than 100 top lawyers called on regulators to ensure solicitors and barristers are “ethically obliged” to advise their clients of the risks of taking part in projects that go against the Paris Agreement.
“Lawyers who support transactions inconsistent with the 1.5˚C limit expose themselves and their clients to substantial legal risk, as well as the real-world risk of catastrophe,” the letter says.
The open letter comes amid warnings of a wave of climate litigation, as shareholders and NGOs increasingly begin suing firms over failures to fulfil their fiduciary duties.
The letter raises concerns that the City’s 100 top law firms supported $1.36trnn (£1.18trn) in fossil fuel transactions last year, up $50bn compared to the year before.
The document argues law firms’ efforts to “advise on these deals and defend them in court” are actively undermining the global energy transition.
It notes four of the UK’s five elite Magic Circle firms received the lowest score possible during a review of climate compatibility.
The lawyers’ letter says courts and lawyers should also refrain from “disproportionately” criminalising climate protestors.