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PROJECT: Facilitation of legal advice to UNFCCC developing country negotiators

Project Reference: ADGL-0052

This project is now in its 5th year with CDKN.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations are considered to be amongst the most complex multilateral law and policy-making processes ever. Meetings are characterised by the use of technical jargon, reference to legal principles and procedural norms. In Paris in December 2015, governments adopted a new international agreement on the international community’s efforts to address climate change. To a large extent, the new agreement will only provide a broad framework for further substantive decisions, actions and new initiatives by the Parties in the years to come.

Developing countries, therefore, need to fully understand the Paris outcomes and their domestic implications. At the international level, they can help to shape processes, rules and administrative arrangement that work for them and effectively support, for example, low carbon development, adaptation and capacity building. Nationally, they will have to develop new policies, legislation, mechanisms and institutions to implement the agreement reached in Paris, access funding and translate their nationally determined contributions into action.

The Legal Response Initiative (LRI) network therefore provides rapid response legal advice to negotiators during climate negotiations. It also provides support for the implementation of climate plans by connecting negotiation teams from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) with legal experts from top law firms around the world.

LRI seeks to:

  1. Support developing countries in unpacking what the Paris agreements means for their country on a domestic level
  2. Support developing countries in the drafting of legislation for implementation of climate plans
  3. Support developing countries to ensure they have the capacity to contribute to post-Paris negotiations.


Through a network of experts from leading law firms, universities and barrister chambers, LRI provides free legal assistance to poor and climate vulnerable developing countries and civil society organisations on climate change. In the absence of LRI its beneficiaries would struggle to access high-quality and strategically important legal advice. At the same time, LRI’s advice giving service allows the legal community to contribute their skills pro bono for the common good and to engage with a target group that would otherwise be difficult to reach. As a result, the public funding which LRI receives unlocks significant additional private sector value.

CDKN has supported the LRI in delivering this service for a number of years with strong results. The LRI runs an open source knowledge management database and publishes briefing papers on topics of regular inquiry in line with the CDKN model. The move towards country-level implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which set out each country’s national climate action plans, while still keeping a foot in the negotiations can complement both CDKN’s global and in-country work.


The LRI has been consistently delivering legal support for the last 5 years. In 2015, the LRI received 164 legal queries. They also trained 25 government lawyers and civil servants from French-speaking African countries in an LRI legal workshop. More broadly, the LRI has supported submissions to the UNFCCC process, written briefing papers to inform discussion in the negotiations and drafted negotiating text for countries. It also hosts an online database of past queries, providing a valuable resource to negotiators and other stakeholders.

Latest update

November 2016: A team of LRI lawyers attended the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the UNFCCC in Marrakesh, to provide their rapid legal response service. In collaboration with UN Environment (UNEP), LRI also organised a round-table discussion on legal preparedness for the Paris Agreement as part of the Law and Governance Day. The event built on the climate legislation workshop held in London in September exploring the different approaches and ideas for supporting developing countries in their legislative efforts to respond to climate change and implement their commitments under the new Paris climate agreement (the report is available online).

September 2016: In collaboration with the Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), LRI hosted a two-day event in London to develop approaches and ideas for supporting developing countries in their legislative efforts to respond to climate change and implement their commitments under the new Paris climate agreement. A public panel discussion took place at PricewaterhouseCoopers on 27 September to assess the post-Paris needs and challenges for effective climate change action in developing countries. This led to a vibrant discussion between development organisations, donor agencies, legal professionals and representatives of foreign missions based in London. Key issues raised were considered further at an expert workshop on the following day at Simmons & Simmons. Around 40 participants from private practice, academia and intergovernmental organisations presented their work on legal drafting, comparing existing legislation, stakeholder engagement and other areas that should inform the development of climate or climate relevant legislation in the future. A summary of the report can be found here.

CDKN funding: £90,047
Project Manager: Sam Unsworth

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