From Vancouver with Love: Insights on the “Arbitration of Energy and Climate Change Disputes” from the Joint Young ICCA and YCAP Event
Young ICCA and Young Canadian Arbitration Practitioners (YCAP) are inviting you to attend their in-person event in Vancouver on Thursday 1 June 2023 from 15:00 to 18:00 Pacific Time at Blake, Cassels & Graydon. The theme of the event is Arbitration of Energy and Climate Change Disputes.
This two-part event is designed to (1) give young practitioners the opportunity to watch a panel discussion on an interesting and cutting-edge topic, as well as (2) practice their own presentation and oral advocacy skills. The event will also provide a fantastic opportunity for attendees to network with peers from the Young ICCA, ICCA and YCAP communities.
In part one of the event, leading arbitration practitioners will participate in a debate on the following motion: Is arbitration the best dispute resolution procedure for climate change disputes? Speakers include:
- Jessica Crow, Arbitra International
- Hon. Barry Leon FCIArb, Arbitration Place / 33 Bedford Row / Caribbean Arbitrators
- Arvindran Manoosegaran, Omni Bridgeway
- Kirsten Odynski, White & Case
- Maanas Jain (Moderator), Three Crowns
In part two of the event, we will be running an “Arbitration Shark Tank”. The idea is simple: up to five (5) pre-selected Young ICCA and YCAP Members will be given up to 5 minutes each to present what they consider to be the most significant decision related to both energy and international arbitration – whether issued by a court or an arbitral tribunal – following the signing of the Paris Agreement in December 2015. A panel of leading arbitration practitioners will comment on the presentations, and the audience will then have an opportunity to vote for the most persuasive presentation.
Participants need not but may want to register for the conference co-hosted by ICCA and VanIAC the following day. For more information about the conference entitled “Energy Infrastructure Disputes and Arbitration: Today and Tomorrow” click here.
We look forward to seeing you in Vancouver!
Meet the Speakers
Jessica Crow is an independent arbitrator with Arbitra International. She specialises in matters relating to the energy transition and the international climate change regime. In the field of climate law and governance, she advises corporates, investors, and States in relation to international and domestic climate policy, transition regulations, and litigation risk. Jessica’s practice is also shaped by her role with leading research institutions. She is a doctoral researcher in climate law and litigation at the University of Cambridge where she teaches environmental law and collaborates with world-leading experts in climate science, economics, and policy.
Hon. Barry Leon
Hon. Barry Leon, FCIArb, is an independent arbitrator and mediator with Arbitration Place, 33 Bedford Row and Caribbean Arbitrators. He was the Presiding Judge of BVI’s Commercial Court, 2015–2018. Barry is an IMI Certified Mediator and a past Chair of ICC Canada. He is a member of Campaign for Greener Arbitrations, North America, and the CanArbWeek Executive Committee, and is Co-Chair of the Canadian Arbitration Report and an Executive Editor of the Canadian Journal of Commercial Arbitration. Barry is a member of the TCAS Arbitration Act Review Committee and is one of the OGEMID arbitration listserv moderators. In 2022, Barry was shortlisted by Global Arbitration Review for its ‘best prepared’ arbitrator award. He is a recipient of the CPR “Award for Outstanding Contribution to Diversity in ADR”.
Arvindran Manoosegaran is an Investment Manager in Omni Bridgeway’s Singapore office, and currently on secondment to our Toronto, Canada office in 2023. He is responsible for assessing and managing funded cases throughout Asia, including arbitration, litigation and insolvency claims. Arvindran began his career at Drew & Napier LLC, the premier dispute resolution firm in Singapore. His practice spanned international arbitration and litigation, advising and representing high-profile clients in private equity and other investment-related disputes, shareholder, partnership and corporate disputes, and civil fraud. He has acted on several international arbitrations under the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) Rules. In 2015, he was appointed by the Supreme Court of Singapore as amicus curiae where he assisted the Court in addressing novel points of law.
Kirsten Odynski is a partner in White & Case's International Arbitration Practice, based in the Paris office. Kirsten has experience in commercial and investment treaty arbitration in a variety of sectors, and a focus in the energy and construction sectors. She was a member of the ICC Task Force for Resolving Climate Change Related Disputes through Arbitration and ADR, and is a member of the Firm’s Climate Change Disputes Group. Kirsten was recognized in Who’s Who Legal as a Future Leader in International Arbitration. She has also been active in White & Case's pro bono work in the area of public international law and legal education service programs.
Maanas Jain (Moderator)
Maanas, an English-qualified barrister and senior associate in the London office of Three Crowns, has advised, represented, and conducted advocacy for corporations and States in complex, high-value commercial and investment treaty arbitrations in a broad range of sectors (including energy, finance, technology, and infrastructure) under all major arbitration rules. He has extensive experience handling disputes involving States or State entities, as well as cases with an Indian connection. Maanas is a current co-chair of Young ICCA, and is ranked as a “Rising Star” in The Legal 500 UK’s 2023 guide for International Arbitration. He was also recently recognized as one of London’s brightest arbitration stars in Legal Business’ 2022 Disputes Yearbook.
Meet the Shark Tank Participants
Claudia Garcia Bustamante
Claudia Garcia Bustamante is a lawyer who attended the prestigious Universidad de Lima in Lima, Peru. Moreover, she has received arbitration training from two prestigious institutions: Universidad Austral in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and American University in Washington, District of Columbia, United States. She focuses on conflict resolution and prevention, especially in the areas of natural resources, energy, and telecommunications regulation. She has experience representing clients in both commercial litigation and arbitration.
Glenn has a broad complex commercial litigation practice for public and private companies, with a focus on international arbitration and class actions. She advises clients in high-value and complex international and domestic arbitrations in a range of industry sectors, including transportation, mining, securities, construction and logistics under ad hoc and institutional rules.
Joan Nelima is a Senior Policy Analyst with three years of experience working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), advocacy groups, and government agencies. Joan holds a Master's degree in Environmental Policy from the University of Nairobi, where she is currently enrolled. She has worked in the environmental sector in a variety of capacities, including green building, blue economy, and energy investments. She is a CIARB Kenya associate member. Development of a data platform, partnership management, successful project performance (budget and time), contribution to publication of insightful articles, ensuring environmental legal framework has been adhered to, capacity building of women and youth are some of the key achievements she has been able to achieve. She was also a part of the FSPI Blue Economy Week 2021 and the University of Cambridge cohort for Piloting Sustainable Development Law and Policy Courses 2023. She strives for attainment of sustainability and green development especially in developing countries. She strives for attainment of sustainability and green development especially in developing countries.
Post Event Report
Written by Dina Prokic.
This report was originally posted on the Kluwer Arbitration Blog.
During the first days of June, the scenic Canadian city of Vancouver hosted several events of interest to the arbitration community. The biggest of these was the June 2 joint conference organized by the Vancouver International Arbitration Centre (“VanIAC”) and the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (“ICCA”), which will be discussed in a separate blog post tomorrow. On the eve of that conference, ICCA’s young practitioners group (“Young ICCA”) and the Young Canadian Arbitration Practitioners (“YCAP”) joined forces to convene an event concerning the “Arbitration of Energy and Climate Change Disputes” at the offices of Blake, Cassels & Graydon. Maanas Jain (Three Crowns) moderated the panel discussion during which Jessica Crow (Arbitra / University of Cambridge), the Hon. Barry Leon, FCIArb (Arbitration Place, 33 Bedford Row and Caribbean Arbitrators, and VanIAC Arbitrator and Mediator Panel member), Arvindran Manoosegaran (Omni Bridgeway) and Kirsten Odynski (White & Case) considered the particularities of climate change and energy transition disputes, the best fora for resolving them, as well as the impact of third-party funding.
The panelists also judged an “arbitration shark-tank” during which three pre-selected speakers briefly presented their views on the most significant decision related to both energy and international arbitration since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015. Glenn Gibson (Borden Ladner Gervais) focused on the dissenting opinion of Prof. Philippe Sands KC in Eco Oro Minerals Corp. v. Republic of Colombia, wherein he opined that international investment tribunals had to recognise the need to proceed with caution in light of the generational challenge faced by climate change. Claudia Garcia Bustamante (Rodriguez Angobaldo Abogados) presented her take on the State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda Foundation, while Joanne Nelima (NGO) shared her views on Eiser Infrastructure Limited and Energía Solar Luxembourg S.à.r.l. v. Kingdom of Spain.
This post presents some highlights from the program and their relevance to broader discussions on these topics.
Arbitrating climate change disputes: What does this entail?
As malleable as the phrase “climate change disputes” may seem, arbitration circles have reached a general consensus on its meaning. According to the ICC Task Force, climate change disputes “arise out of or in relation to the effect of climate change and climate change policy, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”) and the Paris Agreement.”
At the outset of the session, Jessica Crow and Kirsten Odynski distinguished the types of disputes that are likely to come up in arbitration from those bound for other fora. Highlighting the litigation risk for both “climate aligned” and “climate unaligned” industries, Jessica Crow explained how many of the traditional users of international arbitration (based on the data compiled by arbitral institutions) are likely to be first in line to feel the bite of tightening international and domestic climate regulations as GHG mitigation targets become more ambitious. This is where regulation is likely to have a knock-on effect on international investors or on existing commercial relationships, which may already have an arbitration agreement in place.
Both panelists touched upon the main features of climate change regulation and highlighted some of its consequences, such as: regulatory instability for both fossil and renewable investors, the obsoletion of certain industries and industry players, asset standing, increasing due diligence standards for companies under hard and soft ESG regulations and greenwashing. Some of these are reflected in the recent French court case involving TotalEnergies and the Hague District Court decision in Milieudefensie v. Shell.
The impact of climate change disputes on global climate governance and on international arbitration
Climate change disputes generate widespread effects that transcend individual cases and jurisdictions. Crow noted that strategic climate litigation, defined as lawsuits that aim to produce ambitious and systemic impact beyond the individual case, has been on the rise since the Paris Agreement was concluded in 2015. Litigants are relying on a range of strategies, including human rights, constitutional rights, and tort law to gain standing before domestic courts and bring cases against governments that challenge the overall ambition of domestic commitments and policies to mitigate climate change. In a similar vein, cases which seek to compel private companies to align corporate strategy with the overarching temperature goal of the Paris Agreement are also on the rise, as are cases against corporates and financial institutions on due diligence grounds. While climate change disputes can have immediate, real-world impact on domestic policies and corporate strategies, they also produce knock on effects with potential to give rise to both investor-State and commercial arbitration. As such, climate litigation merits our close attention.
While we are unlikely to see “strategic climate arbitration”, strategic climate litigation is likely to prompt new causes of action and counterclaims in industries where arbitration is already frequently used. For example, considering that 8% of global emissions come from concrete, new causes of action are to be expected in construction arbitrations.
More climate change-driven contractual language is also foreseeable. Kirsten Odynski referred to environmental clauses in FIDIC contracts, as well as in standard contracts created by the UK Institution of Civil Engineers, which now contain clauses aimed at incentivizing carbon reduction initiatives on future builds. She also referred to the Chancery Lane Project, described as the largest global network of lawyers and business leaders using the power of climate contracting to deliver decarbonisation. One of the model clauses available on the Chancery Lane Project’s website is a climate-friendly governing law clause which requires that the governing law be interpreted in a manner consistent with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC:
1.1. This Agreement shall be governed by, and all disputes relating to or arising in connection with this Agreement or the subject matter thereof shall be resolved in accordance with, the laws of [chosen jurisdiction]. The parties agree that this Agreement shall be construed in a manner that is consistent with the Climate Objective and any dispute shall be resolved in the manner most closely aligned with the Climate Objective.
1.2. The Parties agree that in the case of inconsistency between the Climate Objective and the laws of [chosen jurisdiction], the Tribunal should interpret and/or modify [chosen jurisdiction] law so that it is aligned with the Climate Objective. Where that is not possible, the Tribunal shall be empowered to disregard those laws, regulations, guidelines, practices or other directives that are incompatible with the Climate Objective, save for mandatory rules of [chosen jurisdiction] law.
Climate change-related policies, however, impact not only the substance of arbitration, but also its process. Part of it could be what the Honorable Justice Brian J Preston SC, the Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales, called “climate conscious lawyering”. The climate conscious approach in daily legal practice can be achieved in several ways, including by appreciating climate change and its consequences in all aspects of legal practice and providing advice that is consonant with the goals of Sustainable Development Goal 16.
The Hon. Barry Leon reminded the audience of another element having the potential to impact the arbitral process: the Campaign for Greener Arbitrations which Lucy Greenwood launched three years ago and which now has nearly 1500 signatories. While there are several facets to the Campaign, the respondents to the 2022 QMUL Survey identified the following items as most popular ways of reducing carbon emissions: “using videoconferencing for meetings and hearings” (81%), “avoiding unnecessary travel, particularly flights” (69%), and “using of electronic bundles at hearings” (66%). Though a slim majority (52%) of respondents indicated that “green” arbitration credentials would not impact their choice of arbitral service providers, it is not unreasonable to expect that the scales may tip the other way in the coming years.
The influence of climate litigation on litigation funders (and vice versa)
Similar to the players in other industries, litigation funders are affected by climate change-related policies and climate litigation. By way of example, Arvindran Manoosegaran referred to ESG screening that is implemented in one of Omni Bridgeway’s funds (Fund 6), which precludes investments into certain industries such as thermal coal and oil sands, by virtue of the requirements of its funding partners. Generally, however, the claimant’s identity is not determinative to Omni Bridgeway’s decision to fund a particular claim; rather, it is the merits of the case that matters. Understandably, commercial litigation funders would approach claims arising in areas where precedent is non-existent or limited with caution.
The reverse is also true: litigation funders can influence climate litigation. In recent years, Omni Bridgeway has financed several climate change claims across the world. One notable example is the Australian class action concerning the government’s failure to address PFAS contamination: Smith v. Commonwealth of Australia (No. 2), wherein Omni Bridgeway assisted the plaintiffs in obtaining $57 million in compensation. When approving the settlement, Justice Lee recognized the significance of litigation funding in that and disputes of similar nature (para. 82):
Without litigation funding, the claims of these group members would not have been litigated in an adversarial way but, rather, they would likely have been placed in the position of being supplicants requesting compensation, in circumstances where they would have been the subject of a significant inequality of arms.
Though Justice Lee’s comment was made in the context of a domestic class action, it applies with equal force in international arbitration. The anticipated increasing significance of third-party funding in energy-related disputes, including climate change disputes, is confirmed by the 2022 QMUL Survey (see p. 38) and a timely reminder to arbitration counsel to recommend funding as an option to their clients.
Is arbitration the best dispute resolution procedure for climate change disputes?
When evaluating which dispute resolution procedure(s) to select, the panelists suggested to approach this task by considering the following issues:
- availability of procedural features that can assist the resolution of climate change disputes;
- whether the dispute resolution procedure hinders or assists the alignment of the private sector with the goals of international documents (such as the Paris Agreement);
- appropriate allocation of risk and cost of energy transition (a question that often naturally arises in investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) cases; and
- the possibility of participation by non-party stakeholders (for example, through amicus curiae submissions and/or access to the ongoing hearings where appropriate).
Additionally, the complex climate science, the rapidly evolving regulatory environment, the permeating public interest and the need for urgent resolution are all factors to consider.
Arbitration, which is characterized by neutrality, fairly foreseeable enforcement of awards, choice of arbitrators and experts, and flexibility, is particularly well-suited to resolving these types of disputes. Indeed, the 2022 QMUL Survey confirmed that arbitration is the preferred means of resolving international energy disputes (see p. 34).
The feature of arbitration that has prompted more discussion in the following days is precisely the ability to choose an arbitrator. More specifically, whether arbitrators require expertise and specific knowledge for the resolution of energy and climate change disputes was explored during the joint Young ICCA and YCAP event but also at the VanIAC / ICCA Conference at the panel “Predicting the Future of International Energy Arbitration”. Some expressed views that, while useful, specific technical and industry knowledge among arbitrators is not the top priority since arbitrators are bound to benefit from expert evidence. A similar view was expressed by participants during the LCIA event on June 3 (LCIA “Tylney on Tour” Vancouver: Energy Disputes). One participant disagreed with the proposition that an arbitrator is “not an empty vessel”, explaining that an arbitrator is not subject to cross-examination by counsel and therefore must decide the case based on submissions made and evidence adduced in the case before them. Yet, one must nuance this position from a situation where the lack of certain knowledge prevents an arbitrator from being effective (to use an analogy from a construction matter, not knowing the difference between concrete and cement makes an arbitrator ill-equipped for that dispute).
Though arbitration is the preferred means of resolving energy disputes, there are still ways to improve the process in this field, as noted in the 2022 QMUL Survey (see p. 33) and recently on this blog. One suggestion would be for arbitral tribunals to take a more proactive approach by arbitrators i.e. resolving “easier” elements of disputes in a summary fashion.
* The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Woods LLP or its partners.
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