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NEWS: Legal Response Initiative (LRI) wins Climate Week Award


A major initiative funded by CDKN to assist poor and climate-vulnerable countries to make their voices heard in the global climate negotiations has won one of the UK Climate Week Awards. CDKN’s Mairi Dupar and Nadia Schweimler report.

The Climate Week Awards “recognise the most inspirational and impressive actions taking place in every sector of society” and aim to showcase inspiring British initiatives on climate change during Climate Week, 3-9 March, 2014. The CDKN-supported Legal Response Initiative (LRI) has won the category ‘best education or campaign initiative’.

Why LRI is needed

Developing countries have contributed the least to climate change, but stand to suffer most from its impacts. The international climate talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), aimed at reaching a new global climate deal by 2015, offer a crucial chance to prevent dangerous levels of climate change. However, the UNFCCC negotiations are also considered to be among the most complex multilateral law and policy-making processes in world history. Meetings are characterised by the use of technical jargon, reference to legal principles and procedural norms. The delegations of industrialised countries include specialised experts, lawyers and support staff. Developing country negotiators can rarely rely on similar support.

CDKN – through the climate window of DFID’s Advocacy Fund – enables LRI to offer free access to high quality and strategically important legal services for low income countries. LRI aims to level the playing field by making its pro bono legal advice and assistance services available to as many poor and climate vulnerable developing countries as possible. It also works to build and strengthen networks of legal experts from the South. By so doing, LRI aims to give these countries a strong voice in climate negotiations and contribute meaningfully to a new global deal.

How LRI works

LRI works through a network of 150 expert legal advisers from private sector law firms, universities and barrister chambers in different jurisdictions. The network gives free hands-on assistance during UNFCCC meetings: drafting legal opinions and legal background papers to brief lawyers and negotiators from developing countries. LRI currently works with 48 countries: 33 in Africa, 14 in Asia and the Pacific and one in Latin America. To date, LRI has taken on almost 250 legal queries about the climate negotiations, over 100 of which came from developing country delegations.

Meanwhile, around 130 individuals involved in the climate negotiators have attended LRI’s specialised legal training sessions. For example, LRI organised a programme for lawyers from Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe who are involved in the UNFCCC talks, in April 2013. For one week, legal experts on international environmental law, treaty law and the UNFCCC process provided tailor-made, practical, hands-on training. The teaching materials, presentations and exercises were compiled in a manual and distributed for free on the internet. Afterwards, some of the participants held further training workshops for colleagues in their home countries. LRI’s training of trainers has created the foundation for an evolving network of climate law experts from different developing country jurisdictions and geographical regions.

How LRI is making a difference

As a result of LRI’s innovative work to provide legal support in the thick of the climate negotiations, and to provide ongoing legal training, poor and climate-vulnerable developing countries have made stronger arguments and achieved progress on difficult issues. For instance, LRI has provided some of the groundwork for developing countries to draft provisions for a new global climate agreement in 2015. LRI has advised developing countries on how to restructure funding for climate adaptation activities within the UN convention process (as the new, international legal framework develops). This will be critical for developing countries’ prospects of dealing with the sea level rise, droughts, high temperatures, floods, and other climate impacts this century.  LRI’s activities have contributed to a more level playing field among actors in the international climate negotiations and have boosted developing countries’ self-reliance.

Kiran Sura, CDKN’s Head of Advocacy Fund, said:  “I’m really pleased that the UK Climate Week Awards have recognised the vital service – until now largely invisible – the Legal Response Initiative plays in levelling the playing field for Least Developed Countries in international climate negotiations. LRI provides critical technical support during and in preparation of the negotiations, enabling these poor and climate-vulnerable countries to have a voice.”

Christoph Swarte, Director of LRI, said: “The award recognises the successful collaboration of LRI and CDKN over the last two years. It is a great boost for the legal community’s efforts to address climate change and its adverse effects on poor and particularly vulnerable societies.”

 

Image courtesy Christoph Schwarte, LRI.

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