More than 170 prominent lawyers have signed a letter warning that breaching the 1.5C temperature goal established by the Paris Agreement could cause mass loss of life and the breakdown of the rule of law.
Backed by the Good Law Project, a not-for-profit organisation that uses the law to protect the interests of the public, and climate charity Plan B Earth, the open letter urges lawyers to commit to climate justice and cease any operations linked to fossil fuel companies.
The letter states: “The science is clear: continuing on current trajectories will lead us to breach the 1.5C temperature threshold and doing so presents intolerable risks.
“The City is one of the largest global centres for financing fossil fuel projects, assessed in 2019 as supporting at least 15 per cent of global emissions.
“Our lawyers advise on these deals and defend them in court, actively undermining the international community’s commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as a matter of urgency.”
The letter cites the US Law Students for Climate Accountability’s report that issues each of the top 100 law firms with a climate score between A and F.
Many City of London law firms are included in the list. Four of the five ‘Magic Circle’ firms – the most prestigious London-headquartered multinational law firms – received an F.
The report reveals that the 100 firms facilitated $1.36 trillion in fossil fuel transactions, a $50 billion increase from the previous reported year. It also found that the top 100 firms litigated a total of 358 cases for fossil fuel clients in the past five years.
“It is unconscionable to pursue a course of conduct for short-term profit knowing that it exposes the public to intolerable risks of disaster,” the letter reads.
“As highlighted by a recent ruling in the US, companies which provide misleading information about the climate crisis or their own contribution to it may also face criminal prosecution.
“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.
“Instead, lawyers must use their influence for good, supporting their clients in making the urgent transformation to business practices that are required to avert disaster.”