Law firms get ready to meet climate change challenges
Scotland has been making headlines around the world over the past months as current and previous world leaders, such as Joe Biden and Barack Obama, came to Glasgow for the Cop26 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
While the Glasgow Climate Pact was finally agreed after intense negotiations, there was disappointment that some of its proposals had to be watered down. It’s too early to say what the impact will be over the coming months and years, but it is clear that all businesses, including law firms, need to have reaching net zero at the top of their agenda.
As well as cutting their own emissions, law firms will also have to advise their clients on their responsibilities when it comes to climate change, along with wider environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues.
Allan Wernham, managing director (Scotland) CMS, says: “We’re proud of our firm’s journey towards achieving net zero by 2025 and we continue to support clients across Scotland on their sustainability journeys.
“We’ve also partnered with the charity Young Citizens to create new materials that teach school children about the UN Global Goals and Climate Action and specifically how the law can be used to drive change. Our aim is to engage 25,000 students over the first year.”
THE FIRM HAS launched MyCarbonFootprint, an app available to all, that aims to help people improve their carbon footprint and support sustainable reforestation. Wernham also points to a high level of activity across equity markets, particularly fundraising by corporates looking to capitalise on new opportunities. He says renewable energy and associated businesses are a particularly “hot sector”, driven by climate change initiatives and the focus on Cop26.
He adds: “In the wake of Cop26, there will be significant opportunities to support clients as the UK accelerates the transition towards net zero carbon emissions. While we’ll continue to support business in taking a leading role in this ambition, it can’t be expected to carry the full burden on its own: governments and, crucially, individuals will need to step up if we’re to create a lasting legacy.”
Claire Armstrong, managing partner of Dentons in Scotland, agrees that ESG considerations are at the top of the agenda for businesses and that may impact the types of deals being seen in the market. Nick Scott, managing partner at Brodies, says: “Discussions at Cop26 will likely create greater momentum
around the drive for net-zero, which in turn will create movement in trade policy, changes in industry process and production, and the acceleration of innovation, all of which opens up commercial opportunities for clients.
“Globalisation won’t stop but will adjust, creating shorter, more localised supply chains to enable
greater resilience in businesses in the long term.”
Peter Lawson, chair at Burness Paull, believes transition to a low carbon future will impact more
companies and draw in a wider range of technologies, and Murray McCall, managing partner at Anderson Strathern, adds: “New service lines have developed as we adapt our society to net zero thinking and policies and that presents great opportunities for lawyers to advise clients on their plans for developing cutting edged new technology designed to meet stretching targets and to support those who need to transform their businesses.”
Andersen Strathern gives the example of its role as a gold partner of the HALO Kilmarnock project which means it will be the preferred legal services supplier for all businesses located at the £63 million urban regeneration facility when it opens later this year. It will be the first net-zero carbon emissions development of its type in Scotland.