Issues relating to the environment are among the most urgent concerns confronting humanity in the 21st century. Foremost among today’s environmental concerns are issues such as climate change, pollution, energy supplies, waste, endangered species and the conservation and protection of resources such as water, fisheries, forests and soil.

Practical solutions to environmental problems are difficult to come by. Environmental issues are often multifaceted and involve the interaction of cultural, social, economic, ethical, political and scientific elements, among others. Moreover, tackling these issues requires responsible management and development which is sustainable.

Our Environment and Climate Change Services

Our areas of expertise in relation to environment and climate change issues cover:

  • Adjustment of national legislation with respect to establishing adequate policies and measures to reduce emissions;
  • Design of the institutional structure with respect to international climate regime requirements;
  • Development permitting;
  • Drafting of environmental provisions in commercial agreements;
  • Legal advice on a vast array of environmental issues such as conservation, energy, sustainability, declaration of performance, carbon credit trading, site contamination, waste law, water law, environmental consents and planning;
  • Legal compliance and health & safety risk management.
  • Development of economic instruments for natural resource management;
  • Development of environmental policy and strategy;
  • Development of management plans for protected areas;
  • Economic aspects of an Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • Environmental risk assessment; and
  • Economic valuation of natural resources.
  • Assisting clients in guaranteeing long-term environmental, social and economic sustainability through timely incorporation of sustainability considerations in business plans and project development;
  • Assisting organisations with the development and execution of environmental policy and strategy, corporate responsibility issues and environmental management systems;
  • Assisting clients from all sectors in reducing their environmental impact footprint, in increasing the efficient use of resources, and in restoring and managing natural resources, biodiversity and waste; and
  • Providing advice on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Development of technical solutions to address specific problems in areas such as water, energy generation and energy conservation in a technical manner;
  • Advise on the use of materials in ascertaining energy efficiency; and
  • Energy performance audits and assessments.

While sustainable development is frequently described as that development which meets the present generation’s needs without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their own needs, there are two different schools of thought with respect to this definition:

  • ‘weak’ sustainability proponents argue that man made goods can substitute for natural capital; whereas
  • ‘strong’ sustainability advocates outline that such natural capital is not substitutable.

The European Union has perhaps been at the forefront of environmental protection and has, time and again, prioritised environmental issues in its policies. Indeed, since the early 1970s, Europe has been committed to environmental protection in several areas, including but not limited to: air and water quality protection, resource conservation and biodiversity protection, waste management and the management of activities having an unfavourable environmental impact.

Climate Change

Climate change represents a long term shift in weather patterns, regionally or globally. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports on scientific evidence on climate change and is the key information source for policy debates. In its Fourth Assessment Report it specified that during the 21st century the global surface temperature is expected to rise a further 2.4 to 6.4 °C for their highest emissions scenario and 1.1 to 2.9 °C for their lowest.

Future warming and related changes will differ between regions and is expected to be strongest in the Arctic region. The effects of a global temperature rise comprise a sea level rise, changes in precipitation amounts and patterns, a possible expansion of subtropical deserts and further retreat of glaciers, sea ice and permafrost. Other probable effects include increased incidences of droughts, heat waves and heavy rainfall, ocean acidification and the extinction of species.Not all IPCC forecasts have the same scientific certainty. Moreover, increasing evidence indicates that the Fourth Assessment Report underestimates climate change impacts. A Fifth Assessment Report is expected to be published in 2014. Other reports from agencies such as NASA show that solar cycles, which also play an important part in the determination of short-run weather systems further contribute to the uncertainty surrounding such predictions.Policy responses to climate change include climate change mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation includes activities which promote energy conservation, better energy efficiency, and the increasing utilisation of renewable energy and/or nuclear energy sources. Climate mitigation also comprises acts to augment natural carbon sinks, such as forests (through reforestation), and to geoengineer the environment (through the use, for instance, of carbon-absorbing basalt rock, the anthropogenic proliferation of algal blooms, iron fertilisation of the oceans and the creation of white clouds through the devices that create water droplets affixed to seaborne vessels). Meanwhile, climate change adaptation isthealteration in environmental,social or economic systems in order to respond to actual or anticipated climate change and its consequences.Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have adopted a range of policies intended to mitigate climate change and also assist in adaptation.  Particularly, in 2010, they agreed to take action to limit future global warming to within 2°C of its pre-industrial level.Averting dangerous climate change is also a strategic priority for the European Union. Europe’s leaders have pledged to transform the European economy into an energy-efficient and low carbon one and they have set targets for reducing its emissions progressively up to 2050. For 2020, the European Union has committed to slash its emissions to 20% below their 1990 levels. This commitment is being realised through compulsory legislation. The European Union has further pledged to increase its emissions reduction to 30% by 2020 should other major emitting countries bind themselves to take on their fair share of emissions reductions. For 2050, the European Union has approved the objective of decreasing Europe’s emissions by 80-95% in comparison to 1990 levels as part of efforts by developed countries to decrease their emissions to a similar extent.

For more information about our Environment & Climate Change services, please contact us here.

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