What do you get when you mix three lawyers just starting out their careers, a few adult pops and a lack of federal climate policy? Well, in the Fall of 2008, the answer turned out to be the Climate Change Lawyers Network (CCLN) based in Toronto. Together with the visionary Laura Zizzo, a founding partner of Zizzo Allan Climate Law, and the passionate Sheila Ritson-Bennett, a former counsel at the Ministry of Natural Resources, I enthusiastically agreed that we should find a way to corral more lawyers in more watering holes to talk more often about climate policy.
At the time, we were primarily focused in providing a platform for junior lawyers to meet each other and receive guidance from experts in climate law and policy. Since those halcyon early days, when CCLN members actually believed a Canadian federal government might take its responsibility in international climate negotiations seriously, the network has expanded to include law students and taken on a more activist role in the Canadian climate policy community. To wit, CCLN members worked with Islands First in building the capacity of Small Island States to respond to developments during COP15 in Copenhagen, provided the Ontario Securities Commission with a significant submission on carbon disclosure rates among Canadian public issuers and, in this letter, the Honourable Roy McMurtry wrote in support of international climate law action and endorsed the CCLN's efforts.
While my early involvement in the CCLN has recently been cut back in order to focus more energy on building my emerging legal practice, I know the current executive is doing an amazing job of educating the profession and thinking critically about one of the world's most pressing issues - the Canadian response to climate change. The network recently met to hammer out a statement reflecting the desire to see Canada take a more constructive role in developing an effective and predictable policy framework.
COP 16 Statement
The CCLN's most recent contribution to the climate policy debate in Canada has been to issue the following request to the Federal Government:
As trusted advisors, we commit to incorporating climate change considerations into our everyday work and lives. We take responsibility for helping our clients understand the risks and opportunities associated with climate change. We believe that every profession, community and nation must make a deliberate contribution to finding climate solutions.
COP 16 is an opportunity for Canada to regain international credibility as a consensus builder. The first step is to get back to the negotiating table in a meaningful way.
Our national circumstances require action on climate change.
- Many of Canada’s communities, particularly those in northern or remote areas, are extremely vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate, such as changing water levels and melting permafrost.
- Our timber stocks and prime agricultural land are under serious threat from avariety of climate change effects, including pest habitat expansions, changing water levels and more frequent and intense storms.
- International criticism and mistrust caused by our failure to abide by Canada’s Kyoto commitment are reducing our influence abroad.
- Canada is missing opportunities to become a leader in the inevitable shift to a low-carbon economy.
- The Canadian economy is dependent on trade with the rest of the world. The CCLN has concerns about trade consequences if Canada continues to block progress on reducing greenhouse gases internationally.
Canada has an opportunity to use its natural and human capital to find political and technological solutions that work for Canadians and the world.
We ask that the Canadian Federal Government:
For people interested in getting in touch with the CCLN, you are encouraged to reach out to the following fine folks:
- Provide certainty to businesses and the public by committing to honour existing emission reduction commitments;
- Fund and mandate a comprehensive national greenhouse gas inventory to allow for appropriate and efficient policy creation;
- Allocate meaningful funds to help northern and other vulnerable communities toplan for and adapt to climate change;
- Support provincial Greenhouse gas reduction measures and show leadership by integrating them into an effective national system;
- Accept international consensus and agree to 1990 as the baseline year; and
- Enable and facilitate Canadian participation in the Kyoto Protocol Flexibility Mechanisms.
Co-Chair, Climate Change Lawyers Network
In Cancun (November 30-December 10, 2010)
Outreach and Education Officer