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Climate change: legal risk and opportunities for professionals

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Haro Room, Cadboro Commons Building, UVic Victoria , BC

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Professionals whose practice areas are affected by climate change need to consider how they will respond in order to provide good service to clients, maintain public confidence in their profession, and minimize legal risk. Similarly, those who rely on professionals for advice should be aware of professional obligations in the context of climate change.

Emerging policy and regulatory guidance are relevant, but professionals also need to be aware of common law duties and potential liability. Both negligence and nuisance claims may arise as a consequence of professional advice that does not take into account climate change. At the same time, as well as risks and obligations, climate change offers opportunities for greater collaboration across professions, and a strong role for professionals in supporting community and ecosystem resilience.

Infrastructure projects that incorporate green design elements and natural assets may offer greater flexibility and less risk of catastrophic failure, and can be achieved with interdisciplinary expertise. Managing the uncertainty around future climate impacts is also an area where professionals can work with climate scientists to better understand the local implications of different climate scenarios.

Speaker: Deborah Carlson, West Coast Environmental Law

Deborah Carlson, staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, a not-for-profit organization, works collaboratively at the local level on law and policy for resilient, healthy communities. She focuses on community-based approaches that recognize our vital connection to nature, and respectful relations with Indigenous Peoples. Her work looks at formal and informal ways to overcome jurisdictional gaps for more integrated policy and regulation at natural scales, recognizing the contributions of professionals and community organizations. Deborah has partnered with the Adaptation to Climate Change Team at Simon Fraser University to develop and deliver community engagement and urban green design workshops. She holds civil and common law degrees from McGill University and is called to the BC bar, with two decades of experience, first practising litigation in private practice and then working for environmental organizations.


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