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Benjamin J. Richardson

The financial sector influences the environmental performance of the economy, often in harmful ways. Through the global movement for socially responsible investing (SRI), the influence of financial institutions is being reoriented in a more positive direction.  Their pathways of influence, such as divestment, corporate engagement, impact investing and voluntary codes of conduct, give modest leverage over the environmental activities of the companies supported by the financial sector. The SRI sector has yet to address the systemic and structural features of the financial economy, as against merely the environmental or social behaviour of individual investors or companies. Social investors should also target government regulators and international lawmakers to introduce better environmental laws, such as a carbon tax, and should also lobby for law reform to improve the regulatory milieu for SRI itself, such as by overhauling fiduciary and trusts law that at present can impede action by some institutional investors.

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Benjamin J. Richardson

Is fossil fuels divestment likely to achieve its aims? This chapter evaluates the rationales of divestment for their capacity to give the global divestment campaign influence in the marketplace. In seeking to end fossil fuel industries in order to mitigate climate change, the campaign deploys a variety of arguments to win support and wield influence in the market, namely: the legality and indeed emerging duty to divest; investors’ moral responsibility to avoid complicity in the fossil fuel 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. Each of these asserted rationales has some limitations that may diminish the market influence of the divestment movement, although in combination they may be effective. Yet, the movement does not engage sufficiently with the systemic qualities of finance capitalism that must also be reckoned with in order to address broader pressures for environmentally unsustainable development. The divestment movement may achieve greater influence by seeking also to reform government regulation of the financial economy.

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Benjamin J. Richardson

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Local Climate Change Law

Environmental Regulation in Cities and Other Localities

Edited by Benjamin J. Richardson

This timely study offers a multi-jurisdictional perspective, featuring international contributors who examine both theoretical and practical dimensions of how localities are addressing climate mitigation and adaptation in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, South Africa and the United States, as well as considering the place of localities in global climate law agreements and transnational networks.
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Book review

Kathryn Shevelow, For the Love of Animals: The Rise of the Animal Protection Movement (Henry Holt & Co., New York 2008) 320 pp.

Benjamin J Richardson

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Benjamin J Richardson

Abstract This chapter examines whether and how local authorities may address climate change, with regard to the scholarly literature and current legal trends. The focus is municipal authorities, especially those that govern cities. The chapter discusses a number of salient academic debates about the opportunities for and barriers to local climate action. The actual practices of local governments in regard to climate change, such as specific laws and policies, are not considered in detail because of insufficient space, but relevant literature is cited to enable readers to explore such details. The chapter concludes with some recommended directions for future scholarly research.
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Benjamin J. Richardson and Angela Lee

This chapter examines socially responsible investing (SRI) by sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), focusing on the contrasting experiences of three funds that lack an explicit legal mandate to practice SRI: Australia’s Future Fund, Ireland’s National Pensions Reserve Fund and the Alaska Permanent Fund. A range of institutional and contextual factors may drive SWFs to practice SRI, but law does not appear to be determinative in these case studies. The absence of an explicit mandate for SRI does not appear to have inhibited some funds from taking into account social and environmental issues that they perceive to be financially material. However, their current SRI practices are unlikely to leverage significant change towards sustainable development. At most, these SWFs may eschew the most egregious companies and make modest preferential investments in the more enlightened ones.

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Benjamin J. Richardson, Yves Le Bouthillier and Heather McLeod-Kilmurray