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Commercial lawyers complicit in climate crisis by defending fossil fuel clients, KCs warn

COMMERCIAL lawyers are “contributing to the climate crisis” by defending fossil fuel clients, a group of 170 prominent lawyers have warned in an open letter. 

The letter urges lawyers to be “part of the solution” to the climate crisis rather than contribute to it by advising and defending City firms on investment deals in fossil fuel projects.

The signatories — which include 17 King’s Council — warn that these actions “actively undermine the international community’s commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”

The open letter, published today and organised with the support of the Good Law Project and PlanB.Earth, also warns that companies and lawyers involved in giving misleading information about the climate crisis could risk facing criminal prosecutions. 

It said: “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 is required to avert disaster.”

The group also suggests that climate protesters taking part in civil resistance could have a good legal defence if the government fails to align to the 1.5˚C limit of global heating. 

Former government lawyer and PlanB.Earth director Tim Crosland said: “There’s no accountability for those exposing the public to extreme risks by knowingly breaching the 1.5˚C climate change limit — humanity’s lifeline — while those taking peaceful and proportionate action to prevent the ultimate crime against humanity are persecuted and threatened with 10 years’ imprisonment. It’s time to take a stand.”

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