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Climate Law & Governance: The Armchair Sessions. A discussion with Professor Benjamin J. Richardson on Divesting from Climate Change: The Road to Influence?

As part of our new Climate Law and Governance hub within The Dickson Poon School of Law, we are delighted to commence a series of public seminars on climate change and governance titled the Armchair Sessions.

These Sessions compliment the formal and public Climate Law and Governance Lecture Series. They are intimate, informal, discursive, and provocative; and will be given by international and local distinguished experts on their experience of cutting-edge issues in the field.

The Armchair Sessions are for staff and students of King’s College London, and represent the interdisciplinary research and teaching interests relating to climate change within the School of Law.

Is fossil fuel divestment likely to achieve its aims? This seminar evaluates the rationales of divestment for their capacity to give the campaign influence. In seeking to end fossil fuel industries in order to halt climate change, the campaign deploys a variety of arguments to win support and wield influence, namely: the legality and indeed emerging duty to divest; investors’ moral responsibility to avoid complicity in the fossil fuels economy; their moral responsibility to use their leverage against climate polluters; and the power of financial sanctions to create a business case for abandoning fossil fuels.

We will discuss how each of these asserted rationales has some limitations that may diminish the influence of the divestment movement, although in combination they may be effective. Moreover, does the movement engage sufficiently with the systemic qualities of finance capitalism in order to address broader patterns of environmental unsustainability? Perhaps one way the divestment movement may achieve greater influence is by seeking government regulation of the financial economy.

Based in Tasmania, one of the world’s most fascinating places in the recent history of legal and political struggles over the natural environment, Benjamin J. Richardson is a Professor of Environmental Law at the University of Tasmania, as well, in 2017, the Global Law Visiting Chair at Tilburg University. Earlier, he held the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Law & Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, and before then academic positions at the law faculties of York University (Canada), the University of Manchester and the University of Auckland.

Professor Richardson has researched diverse subjects including Indigenous peoples and the law, ethical investing, and corporate social responsibility, and environmental philosophy. His global recognition includes winning the Research Excellence Prize of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment Academic Network and the Senior Scholar Prize of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law.

Professor Richardson is a member of the Australian Panel of Experts in Environmental Law and practises environmental stewardship on his Tasmanian eco-sanctuary, Blue Mountain View.

Event details

Somerset House East Wing
Strand Campus, Strand, London WC2R 2LS