Questions and Answers
Commitment a) - interim targets for 2030
How is this commitment different from Commitment b)?
Commitment a) requires the law firm's own operational GHG emissions to be reduced in line with the attainment of net zero emissions by 2050. Interim targets for 2030 must be set for operations as well as the 2050 net zero target, and these targets must be consistent with a fair share of the 50% global reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 identified as a requirement in the IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5°C. Commitment b) requires the law firm to work with clients to offer net zero aligned legal services, where feasible.
What is the IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5°C?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C in 2018, in the light of the reference in the Paris Agreement to pursuing efforts to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5°C. In the report the IPCC advises on the impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C or more, and warns that a temperature rise of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes. The IPCC report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C is available here: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/.
Why is a 50% reduction of CO2 emissions needed by 2030?
The IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5°C said that human-caused emissions of CO2 needed to fall approximately 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 in order to restrict the global average temperature rise to 1.5°C. Because CO2 emissions continued to rise 2010-2019, this implies a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2019 levels by 2030.
What should the baseline be for 2030 targets?
It is recommended that 2030 targets be set against a baseline of 2019, given this is the baseline that the 50% CO2 emissions reduction requirement is calculated on.
What does a 'fair share' of the 50% global reduction in CO2 mean?
What constitutes a 'fair share' of CO2 emissions reduction by 2030 will depend on factors such as the existing emissions profile of the law firm (e.g. if they already embody significant emissions reductions, that is relevant), the geographic location (e.g. if compliant with a national or regional net zero regime, that would be relevant) and the degree of difficulty associated with decarbonisation. An average global emissions reduction of 50% by 2030 would be consistent with a 1.5°C trajectory.
What is meant by 'material' Scope 3 emissions?
One approach to the definition of material Scope 3 emissions is that of the Science Based Targets initiative which operates a principle that Scope 3 emissions are material if they represent more than 40% of a company's overall emissions. Further thinking on this is likely to become available and in some jurisdictions regulatory guidance may be developed.
What is long-term high quality carbon removal?
Long-term carbon removal can be achieved in a number of ways, including afforestation and reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air capture (DAC).
High quality carbon removal units/credits will need to aligned to international accepted integrity standards by the international Initiative for Voluntary Carbon Market Integrity.
Do credits purchased by participants within regulated carbon markets qualify?
Yes, credits purchased by participants within regulated carbon markets that are designed to meet the global 2050 net zero emissions goal qualify as they are claims on real physical emissions reductions.
Commitment b) – the interim target
By when do signatories have to set their interim targets for (i) the proportion of lawyers and legal professional to be trained to provide Net Zero aligned legal services and (ii) pro bono hours worked in line with the attainment of net zero emissions by 2050?
Law firms should seek to set their interim target before the UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021 (COP26) or within a year of making the Net Zero Lawyers commitment.
What form should the interim targets take?
The interim targets should be expressed in the form of (i) the percentage of lawyers and legal professionals in the law firm who have, by a date of the law firm's choice no later than 2030, completed adequate internal training in order to be able to offer legal services across sectors that align with client Net Zero goals and (ii) the percentage or number of pro bono hours worked in line with the attainment of Net Zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.
What lawyer revenue and pro bono hours revenue equivalent can be included in the interim target?
The interim target is a firm commitment, but ambition is encouraged. It should include all billable revenue and pro bono hours revenue equivalent, by the date selected, in line with the attainment of net zero emissions by 2050.
Is an interim target for offering Net Zero aligned legal services also possible?
Yes, an interim target for offering Net Zero aligned legal services is possible, but for large international commercial law firms with diverse practise areas, geographies and client sectors, it will be difficult to assess, measure and meet. However, the interim targets should be regularly reviewed.
How can the law firm track its offering of Net Zero aligned legal services?
There are various points at matter opening or closing where standardised questions on Net Zero aligned legal services offered could be included. Some form of data collection may already exist within individual firm's existing climate change business development strategy and be recorded for business monitoring, management and/or planning and training purposes. In other firms, data may be collected for other reporting purposes.
Can reporting against these commitments be incorporated in law firm's annual reporting under the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), or similar?