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Climate change lawyers cling to 2011 promise

Climate change lawyers cling to 2011 promise

Climate change lawyers keen to get a new flow of work are waiting with fingers crossed for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) to pass through Parliament.

CLIMATE change lawyers keen to get a new flow of work are waiting with fingers crossed for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) to pass through Parliament. 

While firms are getting some work from both existing and new clients around the possibility of an upcoming CPRS, the real goldmine will be if it is actually implemented. 

“If it’s passed in parliament, that is when we know whether it will affect the work. If it is passed, companies will want to know what their obligations are and they will want to start preparing for it,” said Charmain Barton, environment and climate change partner at DLA Phillips Fox. 

“If it’s not passed and the bill is delayed, the work that will flow in to lawyers is not likely to increase until it is passed.”

While some new and existing clients have approached firms like DLA Phillips Fox to discover their potential liability under the CPRS, said Barton, a lot of businesses are taking a “wait-and-see” approach. “They are waiting to see whether the CPRS gets up and running.”

Barton spoke to The New Lawyer after leading a discussion at a DLA Phillips Fox seminar on Tuesday night, which worked to show about 60 current and potential clients how the firm could help businesses deal with the risks and opportunities of climate change. 

The seminar followed this month’s apparent back-flip by the federal government on its climate change legislation in delaying the emissions trading scheme for a year, increasing compensation to trade-exposed polluters and by lifting the top level of its carbon reduction targets. 

The Government has announced that an Australian emissions trading scheme will be in place by 2011. The voluntary market for carbon offsets is rapidly expanding, the firm said at this week’s event, but the industry is likely to increase once the Scheme commences. 

Meanwhile, firms like DLA Phillips Fox are advising clients on the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act, said Barton. The firm gets much of its climate change and environment work from clients in the transport sector that are large fuel consumers, as well from the retail sector, which can be large users of electricity. 

Work for climate change lawyers has not been booming in recent months, and one expert in the area said anonymously that for many businesses the environment and climate change has been put on the backburner amid a global economic downturn.

Another mid-tier Sydney law firm recently made the decision to close to its new climate change practice after the sole partner failed to make the practice profitable. 

Speaking anonymously to The New Lawyer, that firm’s chief executive said the firm had given the partner eight months to bring in new clients and find means to make the practice profitable. The firm recently made the decision to make the partner redundant, and that partner is now looking for work in the same area in another firm. 

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