Litigating in a changing climate
Greener Actions is an ESG project aimed at reducing the environmental impact when resolving disputes in Scotland, within a framework of responsible Environmental, Social and Governance criteria.
This initiative will provide a forum for court users across the country to come together to identify areas in which we can use technology, innovation and legislation to reduce the carbon footprint of dispute resolution, and to form an action plan through which that change will be implemented.
Why Greener Actions?
Scotland has been at the centre of global attention on climate change ever since COP26 was first scheduled to take place in the city. The global climate summit was finally scheduled for November 2021.
Greener Actions aims to facilitate co-ordinated action by the Scottish legal profession and other court users targeted at achieving what are likely to be the ambitious emissions targets arising from COP26, while ensuring that the profession’s social responsibilities and governance standards are maintained.
We want all courts and court users in Scotland to join forces to that end, and bring permanent positive change to the practice of dispute resolution.
Greener Actions will be based on clear ESG principles. Some elements that the founding team have identified as potential actions and their benefits are set out below:
- Not simply about ‘going paperless’ or reducing travel in favour of virtual hearings, but about making greener choices, where possible, throughout the litigation process.
- Increased use of electronic bundles and electronic communications where possible for greener efficiencies.
- Court reforms have already moved a significant portion of court actions to local Sheriff Courts from the Court of Session. Whilst this improves upon access to justice for litigants, it potentially increases travel requirements for legal practitioners. The use of a hybrid model to include virtual and physical attendance for certain hearings may make the running of court proceedings greener and more efficient for all court users across the country.
- Promotion of Greener Actions and a collaborative approach with courts and court users, including suppliers of goods and services incidental to the conduct of litigation
- In order to limit the number of people travelling to court for physical hearings, exploring the potential for all substantive hearings to be streamed by the courts to allow for colleagues or the public to attend the proceedings without travel
- This additionally creates a new stream for training and educational purposes:
- training and experience for practicing lawyers;
- opens up courts to law students, school pupils and the general public (which is the point of court hearings being conducted in an open forum)
- Where travel is required, opting for the least carbon intensive option available if possible.
- Court hearings are conducted in open court with only the most sensitive of cases conducted behind closed doors. Finding the balance between maintaining high standards of administration of justice with virtual hearings.
- Maintaining confidence in the quality of oral and documentary evidence placed before the court.
- Need to consider security measures for virtual hearings
- GDPR issues in the event certain hearings are recorded (evidential hearings, for example)
Greener Actions is inviting all court users, including fellow law firms, and stakeholders involved in litigation in Scotland to join the Greener Actions Focus Group to create an action plan for greener litigation in the country’s courts. If you would like to be part of Greener Actions and help shape the future of litigation in Scotland, we would welcome your involvement.