Concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is at record levels, higher than for three million years. According to the former Governor of the Bank of England, and now UN special envoy on climate action and finance, Mark Carney, the world is on track for a 3C increase in warming.
However, if we are to avoid irreparable damage to our environment and to our individual and collective futures, levels must be maintained at well below a 2C increase. The world faces tipping points such as disintegration of ice sheets, species extinction and permafrost loss which could push parts of the earth into irreversible changes and displace billions of people
There is increasingly strong scientific and political consensus. The financial sector is beginning to understand the long-term consequences for economies, investment and risk. As President Biden made clear recently, this is the decade when things must change and this is the year when we must start to make a real difference. Whatever we all do in response to the pandemic, we need also to address the implications of climate change and focus on achieving net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible. There is no time to waste. The Green Recovery needs to mean something. And to deliver.
The next Conference of the Parties on climate change, COP 26, will take place in Glasgow this November. Arguably, it is one of the most important global meetings ever. Nations need to commit to implementing what was agreed at a previous COP in Paris. Overall, we are told that this commitment has so far been woefully insufficient.
Whoever we are and however we go about our lives, we all have a part to play in this, as Scotland’s Climate Assembly recently reminded us. The UK Committee on Climate Change has challenged us all in Scotland to walk the talk. The Scottish Government has set challenging targets for reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2045. Scotland's public bodies are expected to lead by example and make “a valuable contribution” towards achieving these targets. Experts say that we need to translate big picture commitment into sectoral delivery and real results on the ground.
Today, in Scotland, a conference is being held to discuss “Civil Business Post Covid”, providing “a forum for a discussion amongst interested parties about how Court of Session and Sheriff Court civil business might be conducted once the pandemic is over.”
My question for the conference is this: How can we design a civil justice system in Scotland fit for the future, not only post-Covid but addressing climate change and minimising environmental harm? How can we deliver a Net Zero Carbon civil justice system? With COP26 coming up, how can we show leadership to others?
This raises some interesting further questions:
The Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Voss, recently set out radical proposals for an effective and efficient civil justice system in England and Wales, including online integration of alternatives such as mediation, leading, he argues, to significant economic benefits for the country. The objective for the Scottish civil justice system must surely be to move from traditional resource-heavy processes to those which achieve the twin benefits of efficient dispute resolution and a lower carbon footprint.
“This is not for us…” won’t do. We’re all in this together. Those of us in mainstream professional activities in Scotland, including the civil justice system, must act now.
Published in The Scotsman, 10 May 2021
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