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West Coast Environmental Law’s new report, Professionals and Climate Change: How professional associations can get serious about global warming, challenges the self-regulating professions to clearly define their members’ ethical obligation that the members of professional organizations owe to their clients and the public relating to climate change. The report suggests that professionals, such as architects, engineers, foresters, biologists, insurance professional, and accountants, have an obligation to warn their clients of the risks of climate change, and also to prevent and deal with climate change.

The report argues that such obligations are analogous to member obligations to protect economics, human health and society and could be incorporated into existing Codes of Conduct in the areas of:

  • Continuing professional education,
  • Promoting sustainability,
  • Not speaking beyond one’s expertise or competence,
  • Not making misleading statements or falsifying data; and
  • Acting with due diligence.

Although not discussed in the report, it is an interesting question for Law Societies to consider as well: What are the obligations of the legal profession to warn their clients about climate change? Or possible liabilities due to failure to adapt to the changes? (an issue Dianne wrote about for The Lawyers Weekly). Could there be an obligation to do more?

by Meredith James and Dianne Saxe

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