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What climate-centred legal design might be

This blog post is written by LDS Guest Writer Humzah Khan, Programme Manager at The Chancery Lane Project. Click the button below to learn more about and connect with Humzah. You can also read his previous articles on LinkedIn.


After the 2023 Legal Design Summit in Helsinki, I wrote an article "Legal Design Summit: Reflections from a climate perspective" addressing the lack of climate action in the world of legal design. In doing so, I introduced the concept of climate-centred legal design. Since then, both through and outside of my work at The Chancery Lane Project, I have thought about this concept a lot. But what does it actually mean? This blog post explores what climate-centred legal design might be, what it aims to do and who it’s for.

Defining climate-centred legal design:

Climate-centred legal design involves the application of legal design thinking and innovation to law relating to climate and the protection of the planet.

It bridges the gap between law, design and climate. It also shares the same principles, goals and benefits of legal design in its broadest form. In many ways, it represents a new iteration of design thinking in law, with an emphasis on improving law so it is more climate-centred as well as human-centred.

This expression of legal design involves exploring problems and developing user-led solutions to:

  1. The legal sector’s response to climate: The systems, models, standards and theories that will enable the legal sector and profession to respond effectively to the climate crisis. For example, integrating climate into mainstream legal education or requirements that lawyers measure the emissions attributed to client advice.

  2. Laws around climate: Specialised legal practices and mechanisms that intersect with, influence and are impacted by climate, from contentious to non-contentious law. For example, relying on tort law or international human rights to sue a fossil fuel company. Another example is reducing carbon emissions through supply chain agreements.

  3. Climate laws: Dedicated legal frameworks and policies that directly govern climate and its impacts, from national legislation to international treaties. For example, the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Another example is the European Union Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

It is a fluid concept that will help law, and legal professionals, navigate and respond to these challenges and opportunities as they evolve and intensify. In that sense, climate-centred legal design is just as relevant to climate as it is to ESG, biodiversity, nature and animals. Ultimately, the end user will decide what, how and where it is expressed.

What climate-centred legal design aims to do?

Climate-centred legal design encourages legal designers and innovators to apply their unique skills and expertise to combat humanity’s biggest problem of all: the climate and ecological crisis.

In doing so, it aims to:

  • Future proof the legal sector: Drive sustainable practices and design systems to support the legal sector to respond more effectively to climate-related impacts, adapting to outside forces (like science and legislation) as they develop and present increasingly complex challenges.

  • Improve accessibility and understanding: Translate complex climate-related legal concepts into information that is clear, accessible, usable and engaging, particularly for legal professionals. Educational materials, processes, decisions, documents and transactions that are climate-centred and user-led will result in better outcomes for the planet.

  • Instil empathy in lawyers: Help lawyers recognise their responsibility in contributing to, as well as combating, global temperature rise. Educate, support and enable them to realise their transformative potential in facilitating the legal response to these issues.

  • Enhance quality of advice to clients: Improve understanding of and advice on how companies can transform their business models, so they are fit for purpose in a 1.5/2/2+C world. No client or practice area is unaffected by climate and nature impacts. Legal professionals need to be able to competently advise public and private actors on the relevant risks, requirements and opportunities.

  • Access to (climate) justice: Provide communities most vulnerable to and affected by climate and nature impacts with the legal support needed to achieve just and equitable outcomes, for people and the planet.

  • Foster collaboration: Provide a platform for lawyers to innovate in collaboration with other lawyers and organisational functions. Create a forum for legal professionals, business leaders, policymakers, scientists, academics, civil society and indigenous groups to collaboratively design legal responses to climate and nature issues together.

Climate-centred legal design for you:

If you are a legal designer, what role can you play in making law more climate- and human-centred in your current projects or the client’s you support?

If you are a private practice or in-house lawyer, what climate-related problems are you facing, or expecting to face, in your practices that would benefit from design thinking and legal innovation?

If you are driving and advocating for systemic changes across the legal sector, how might climate-centred legal design help accelerate and scale your impact?

Finally, if you are doing, would like to do, or are generally interested in this space, let's chat about climate-centred legal design. Join the discussion and leave a comment below.


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