> Impact and benefits
Climate Emergency and Environmental Crisis (CE&EC) Declaration
Corporations and incorporeal entities speak and “act” through what is written in documents. A CEO or Director may have very ‘green’ views, but unless the corporation they run recognises in writing those thoughts, it will be harder and more time consuming to keep such corporations accountable for any ‘unsustainable’ action it undertakes, unless, of course, in breach of a law. Capitalising on the intellectual brainpower coming from VELSN and MULSS, and inspired by the Sydney Law School’s Climate Declaration, Alex took the lead on the drafting of a CE&EC Declaration, which was adopted by the student Societies in September 2020, and now binds the activities of these societies and their 1000+ members. In practice, the declaration will assist the future Environment Directors and student members in ensuring that decisions of the Societies’ Committees be made with an active consideration of principles of sustainability, such as energy and waste minimisation, environmental education and environmentally aware money expenditure. Using the student declaration as a blueprint, Alex now has corporations such as the Melbourne Law School (MLS) and the University of Melbourne (UoM) signing CE&EC Declarations, with the hope that students and staff will have more and easier leverage on holding these corporations to account in any and every decision they make, speeding up and simplifying the transition to more sustainable board decisions and activities. Further, by having a dedicated team of ‘environmental experts’ synthesise some guidelines in a Code (see below), we hope that anyone can easily take inspiration (and obligation) to become more sustainable while pursuing their agenda.
Code for Environmental and Climate Conscious Lawyering
The law is a powerful tool of proactive chance and reactive enforcement. This is why Alex is leading the development of a Code that will assist lawyers be more environmentally and climate conscious, thereby assisting them in giving due consideration not only to the legal framework of the task before them, but also to other inherent risks of the clients’ activities, such as physical risks to business’ assets due to an ever more unstable climate and extreme weather events; transitional risks of loss of revenue or profits due to markets and consumers shifting to lower carbon and more sustainable alternatives; and liability risks of conducting ‘business as usual’, including the (increasing) risks of litigation for contribution or failure to minimise impacts on the environment and the climate. Following the Code, lawyers will give more environmentally-sound advice to their clients, be that in the set-up, running or closure of business, or advising government or individuals. Environmental and Climate conscious lawmakers and politicians will be aware of their international, professional and ethical obligations, meaning that they will be less influenced by strongly ‘pro-development’ lobby groups, hopefully resulting in a ‘greening’ of the Nation, meanwhile keeping everyone’s economic and wellbeing interests in mind.
Beach and Yara river clean-ups, Tree planting and revegetation activities
It is only (or mainly) by seeing and engaging with a problem that we can have an epiphany or realisation on how to best solve it. Further, being a Network of Environmental Lawyers, VELSN strives at bringing like-minded people together. Therefore, Alex organises hands-on trips believing that they are one of the best ways of creating a cohesive group; observing the problem at hand; figuring out the logistics and challenges of the solutions adopted, their limitations and how they can be improved; and meeting people outside the group so that it can grow, expand and be positively influenced. Further, exciting trips such as “Pamper the Penguins and revegetate their Noon Flowers” or the trendy “Tree Planting” are a fantastic way of attracting new students from outside the network/group, educate them about some environmental problems and hopefully ‘hook’ them in the net(work).
Choose to Reuse expansion
This initiative was to be an expansion on the main University of Melbourne’s Choose to Reuse initiative (in place in the main campus but absent at the Melbourne Law School. After initial talks, it had to be abandoned due to COVID.
Alex’s engagement also involves educating the community and workplaces about waste management and pollution. This is why last year he created and now administers a page called #ChemicalsFreeSeptember (with a reach of over 1400 visualisations, expected to increase in the second year with a broader community expansion and collaboration with other environmental groups such as ACF, Friends of the Earth, Environment Victoria etc.), where recipes for 100% natural home-made cleaning/deterging products are shared. He also organised a Parade for Nature with the involvement of external organisations using upcycled waste #ForTheLoveofTheReef to #KeepAustraliaBeautiful.
Alex has also recently been put in charge of Waste Reduction and Optimisation at his workplace, promoting initiatives such as “Fill a bucket with waste from the beach for a free hot drink” and implementing recycling of glass, aluminium and cardboard from the venue.