Landmark charter designed to support law firms with transition to Net Zero launches in UK 

Legal Charter 1.5, a landmark initiative designed to support law firms respond meaningfully to the climate crisis, has launched in the UK.

The Charter, which has been developed collaboratively by a group of large commercial and corporate law firms, consists of a set of eight core principles that signatories commit to, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the speed and scale necessary to restrict global warming to no more than 1.5°C.

Gowling WLG is one of eight prominent law firms who have signed Legal Charter 1.5, alongside Taylor Wessing, Bates Wells, DWF, Osborne Clarke, DLA Piper, Mischon de Reya, and Clyde and Co. A number of other supporting law firms are also engaged in the charter working group.

The eight core principles outlined in the Charter text include the development of a methodology on advised emissions; education and upskilling of staff across the legal profession, including junior lawyers; focused pro-bono and meaningful offsetting.

Each of the principles of the Charter, which law firms commit to when signing, is underpinned by corresponding projects including focused pro-bono through the "One Million Hours" pledge and the development of a quantitative methodology for advised emissions.

The launch of this Charter comes at a crucial time for the legal sector, where there is a growing demand across private practice for law firms to deliver a credible, integrated approach to sustainability and outline a clear roadmap to Net Zero.

This closely follows the launch of the milestone "The impact of climate change on solicitors" guidance issued by the Law Society in May.

David Fennell, chief executive of Gowling WLG (UK) LLP, said:

"We are proud to be a founding member of Legal Charter 1.5. The core principles of the Charter align with our ESG strategy and we are committed to collaborating with our clients and the other participant firms to address the impacts of climate change."

Alongside the current signatories, six additional supporting firms (Ashurst, Pinsent Masons, Freshfields, Simmons + Simmons, Slaughter & May and Hogan Lovells) are engaged with the Charter as dialogue partners, who have contributed to drafting and shaping of the Charter text and the wider working group.

Lubna Shuja, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said:

"The launch of the 1.5C Charter represents another important step being taken by the legal profession in relation to the climate change crisis. Our recently released climate change guidance sets out how solicitors and law firms can continue to be at the forefront of responding to the challenges of climate change."

Dr Thom Wetzer, associate professor of Law and Finance at the University of Oxford, said:

"The legal profession has the potential to do tremendous good and it can be part of the solution to the climate crisis. That is why the launch of this Legal Charter is such a welcome step forward. It will allow law firms to share expertise with those seeking to improve the current system.

"The legal profession needs new standards – from investment management agreements that account for green preferences, to sustainability-linked bonds and contracts-for-difference in the hydrogen market. Investors need guidance and policymakers require training. Committing time and expertise to that cause, if well-directed, can rid us of obstacles that currently hold back the Net-Zero Transition. This Charter will help us, collectively, to move along this path".

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