This is the official website for the Principles on Climate Obligations of Enterprises (Climate Principles for Enterprises). Here, you can find the texts of the principles and their extensive commentary, which expands on how the principles should be interpreted and explains their legal substantiation; a list of publications about the Climate Principles for Enterprises; information about the members of the Expert Group on Climate Obligations of Enterprises; a list of endorsers of the principles; and news about the principles and any upcoming events.

We would be delighted to talk about the Principles, the obligations of the corporate and the financial sector and the liability risks posed by unabated climate change. We are open to any format: private discussions, in-house meetings, and speaking at events and conferences about any topic related to our Principles and the update which is still work in progress. We are also most happy to accept invitations to write about the Principles.

For more information please contact Prof. Dr Jaap Spier, jaapspier@gmail.com or jaap.spier@cisl.cam.ac.uk.

Forthcoming Update (second edition):

For some time the Expert Group on Climate Obligations of Enterprises has been working on a revised version of the Principles on Climate Obligations of Enterprises. The reasons for this updated version are the IPCC Special Reports of 2018 and 2019, an increasing number of unprecedented natural catastrophes, new climate cases, reports, academic publications and the growing awareness that the window of time is closing. There is a growing consensus that net zero emissions have to be achieved by 2050 at the latest. For now and with notable exceptions corresponding action falls short.

This unfortunate state of affairs urged us to consider additional measures and targets to avoid passing fatal thresholds. The update emphasises the importance of and offers concrete principles on

  • the emissions of suppliers, products and services;
  • governance;
  • buyers of fossil fuels;
  • major retailers and
  • the obligations of key players:
    • accountants;
    • credit rating agencies;
    • (re)insurers, and
    • attorneys.
The book containing the text of the principles and an elaborate commentary will be published by Eleven international publishing, https://www.boomdenhaag.nl/en/webshop/principles-on-climate-obligations-of-enterprises-1, forthcoming 30 November 2020.

About the update:

“This document will help corporate leaders to make
informed decisions about the measures to be taken, and allows
others – investors, Prudential Authorities, accountants and NGOs –
to assess whether the required measures have been implemented.”
Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the UK

“The principles, as now updated, can be taken as a fair indication
as to how the law stands or is likely to develop.”
Lord Carnwath, former Justice of the UK Supreme Court

Text of the updated Principles:

See for the full text of the updated Principles the following link: https://climateprinciplesforenterprises.org/updated-principles/

On behalf of the Expert Group,

Jaap Spier & Bastiaan Kock

JaapSpier-13

Latest developments around the Principles:

See for the latest news concerning the Principles News and Events

Can climate litigation save the world?

Damian Carrington, Environment Editor, explored the role of courts as “a new front line of climate action” and covered the Climate Principles for Enterprises in March 2018 for The Guardian.

“an international panel of senior judges concluded in January that many companies around the world may well already be in breach of existing laws in relation to their impact on climate change. “Very, very few enterprises currently meet their obligations – if they did [climate change] would mostly be solved,” said Jaap Spier, who was advocate general in the Dutch supreme court until 2016 and part of the panel that published the assessment.

Spier says judges are influenced by growing concerns in society, such as worries over climate change, and are increasingly likely to look favourably on climate litigation in coming years. “If you assume companies don’t [change] at some stage, I have not the slightest doubt that courts will understand that they must step in.”

Read the full article here.

What people say about the Principles:

“The Climate Principles for Enterprises are a valuable initiative which can help in achieving the Paris Agreement’s objectives and ultimately tackling climate change. I sincerely hope that this project will enjoy broad support.”
Laurent Fabius, President of the Constitutional Council of France, Former Prime-Minister of France, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of France during COP-21

“Climate change may be the greatest challenge that currently faces mankind. If it is to be solved it requires collective action. That creates a problem, because if collective action is to be successful, each individual needs to understand what his or her contribution is to be. And if that contribution is to be made, it needs to be, and to be seen to be fair amongst all participants. Scientists agree that we need to keep the temperature rise to two degrees. But what does that mean for way we run those enterprises that are the engine of the global economy? If we leave it for every company to invent their own rules, it will take enormous effort, and it is unlikely that all will agree that each has contributed their fair share. That is why this document is of such importance. Here in less than 3,000 words, some of the world’s most eminent lawyers have laid out a simple set of rules.”
David Pitt-Watson, Former Chair UN Environment Program Finance Initiative

“The Climate Principles for Enterprises provide a very explicit and easy to follow mandate for corporates to incorporate the imperatives of reducing carbon emissions into their planning, management and reporting. The simplicity of the document serves only to highlight the sophistication of its drafting and the power of its message.”
Ashok Khosla, Chairman, Development Alternatives; Past Chairman, UN’s International Resource Panel; Past President, IUCN and the Club of Rome

The Climate Principles for Enterprises “provide a solid framework for identifying the obligations of all businesses to reduce their greenhouse emissions in line with national targets that are sufficient to meet the two degree goal. Businesses that reduce their total emissions in line with these principles are likely to avoid the risk of future litigation and liability for contributing to the loss and damage from climate change.”
James Thornton, CEO of Client Earth

“The Principles on Climate Obligations of Enterprises are impressive, well-conceived, and well-constructed. I am glad to endorse them.”
Parvez Hassan, Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan; President of the Pakistan Environmental Law Association; former Chairman, IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law

“Finally, the Oslo Principles, although not endorsed by the UN or binding on any states, contain a useful framework for conceptualizing state obligations in this context [domestic mitigation obligations]. The principles explicitly reference the need to protect human rights and clarify the obligations that states have to reduce GHG emissions, taking into account cost and other factors”
“[I]t is worth noting that non-state obligations with respect to human rights are also outlined in the Oslo Principles (which deal specifically with climate change)”
UN Environment in cooperation with the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, Climate Change and Human Rights, 2015, p.24-29