The Canada Climate Law Initiative examines the legal basis for corporate directors, officers and pension fiduciaries to consider, manage, and report on climate-related financial risks and opportunities, advancing knowledge on effective climate governance practice and exploring the scope and limits of fiduciary obligation in respect of climate change.
The Canada Climate Law Initiative is a cross-disciplinary research initiative, with principal investigators Dr. Janis Sarra, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia and Professor Cynthia Williams, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. Professors Sarra and Williams are also the Canadian principal investigators for the global Commonwealth Climate and Law Initiative (Oxford University, UK).
Our history and current initiatives
As Canadian partner and full participants in the global Commonwealth Climate and Law Initiative (Oxford), in 2017 /2018 we conducted research and wrote reports, conducted expert meetings in Toronto and Calgary with industry and legal specialists; organized major conferences in Vancouver and Toronto on director and officer obligations and climate change financial risk; and participated in both Canadian and international fora on how best to transition to a lower carbon economy given current legal obligations under corporate, securities, financial and environmental law. With research support from the Ivey Foundation, the University of British Columbia and York University, we examined the legal basis for corporate directors in Canada to be required to take account of, disclose, and manage climate change risks under prevailing statutory and common laws. We assessed the materiality of these considerations, in terms of liability exposure and the potential implications for company and investor decision-making in the real economy. We also examined the legal basis for pension trustees, pension investment managers and other pension fiduciaries in Canada to take account of, disclose, and manage climate change risks under prevailing statutory and common law.
In 2019, we made a major submission to the Canadian Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance, titled Time to Act, Response to questions posed by the Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance on Fiduciary Obligation and Effective Climate-related Financial Disclosures. A number of our suggestions were included in its final report in June 2019, Final Report of the Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance – Mobilizing Finance for Sustainable Growth. We conducted meetings with corporate governance and finance experts, institutional investors and companies across Canada in May and June 2019 in a candid exchange regarding the best thinking on effective climate governance.
Our current initiatives are funded by the University of British Columbia, York University and, under the auspices of the Clean Economy Fund, the Ivey Foundation, McConnell Foundation and North Growth Foundation. Our goal is to develop strategies to encourage meaningful governance action by directors and other fiduciaries in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Our focus is on working with lawyers, economists, scholars, directors, pension trustees, asset managers and other institutional investors to move Canada towards a sustainable low carbon economy. Our strategies will involve a concentrated focus on knowledge mobilization, stakeholder engagement and policy development. Our work fits hand in glove with the efforts of the Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance.