Climate change is one of the defining issues of our generation. It is a phenomenon that goes to the very core of organisational strategy and holds vast potential to influence the flow of capital.
Increasing scrutiny around corporate governance and disclosure expectations relating to the management of climate risks, together with motivated and well-resourced public interest litigants, puts climate litigation high on the radar. Ancillary to this, human rights complaints are being levelled against governments and corporations. Individuals who believe their rights have been directly impacted by climate-induced physical phenomena such as bushfires, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, now seek accountability from those who are seen as contributing to a changing climate.
As such, the concept of ‘climate change law’ has, in a very short space of time, exploded out of the traditional confines of narrow regulation of emissions. Our clients have demonstrated a keen appreciation of the nuanced task of establishing robust governance frameworks, providing accurate and relevant information to the market, and being open to change as the landscape evolves. We have observed boards and management turning to their legal teams with novel questions about the legal implications of climate change, often in compressed timeframes.
Noting how new these issues are, we have also observed that one of the biggest challenges is identifying the right questions to ask. Where does the risk lie? Which Act, common law principle or case is relevant? For this reason, we have made ‘Asking the right questions’ the core theme of this guide. Its purpose is to equip in-house legal and compliance teams with essential information in relation to the various areas of climate change law and, for each area, to identify some of the key questions to ask.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to navigating the risks and opportunities climate change presents – each organisation will need to develop a bespoke approach which works for them. The questions identified in this guide will often be questions practitioners could ask themselves in the first instance. They are designed as a prompt to identify the internal stakeholders who need to be engaged in discussions about the management of climate change risk. They are also designed to help identify areas where an organisation’s climate change risk and governance structures could be strengthened.
Inevitably, there is a strong theme of risk management in this guide, but we also highlight some of the opportunities for Australian business that will continue to grow as the country continues on the pathway scientists agree is needed: net zero by 2050. We hope our in-house colleagues will find this document useful. Please get in touch with me, or any member of our team, if you’d like to discuss the implications for your business.
Jillian Button Head of Climate Change, Allens T +61 3 9613 8557