Canadian Bar Association Debate on a Climate Crisis Resolution

What I said to the Canadian Bar Association in its debate on a climate crisis resolution:

Climate change and environmental collapse are poised to sweep a just and fair society well out of our reach even for those of us lucky enough to live and practice in Canada. As the chief justice said, those who are already the most vulnerable will suffer the most, just as we have seen with COVID-19. Vulnerable people are more likely to suffer when climate extremes come, whether searing summer heat or floods or drought, and they are the least able to recover. Indigenous communities suffer the most as ice roads and coastal infrastructure crumble, as wildlife populations drop.

It is already happening.

We lawyers are not innocent bystanders. On average, we personally cause more climate pollution than other Canadians, because of our higher incomes. But more importantly, we play a powerful and privileged role in the system of law and justice that is a major cause of the crisis. It is our system of laws that has made pollution and environmental destruction “free”, that has made some people very rich at the cost of soaring inequality and massive destruction of nature, including the natural system on which we all depend. We lawyers, as individuals and as a group, have earned high status and high fees from serving this system. We are justly proud of its achievements and it is just to hold us accountable for its damage.

This resolution asks little of us, only to do our duty. To tell our clients about the risks they really face and about the real consequences of our actions.

To use our power and privilege for the high ideals we claim to serve.

It is part of our commercial interest to preserve a stable climate which can support a strong economy.

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