May 24, 2021

Professor Lisa Benjamin’s New Book Looks at Corporations’ Responses to Climate Change

Professor Lisa Benjamin recently published a book about the interaction between climate action and corporate law.

Professor Lisa Benjamin’s new book, Companies and Climate Change shows how various areas of law, such as climate and energy law, and transnational human rights law, as well as climate litigation, are demanding more progressive climate action by corporations. The book illustrates how these areas of law interact with, and sometimes diverge from, corporate law. The theme of the book is that corporate law can and should act as a bridge to progressive corporate climate action.

Companies and Climate Change, published by Cambridge University Press, April 2021, showcases the rising social and investor concern about the escalating risks of climate change and how those concerns are impacting corporate approaches to climate change. The book assesses the regulations and pressures that impact energy corporations in the UK, with illustrations from other jurisdictions such as the U.S., Canada, South Africa, India and The Philippines. .

“I am hoping the book provides some insights not only into existing barriers but also an update on some very innovative activities being undertaken by a number of companies, how quickly the law and societal expectations in this area have and are still changing, and how corporate law can assist in the global energy transition,” Professor Benjamin explains. “I wanted to contribute to a potential rethinking of the role of corporations, but also corporate law, in the context of climate justice and climate action.”

Professor Benjamin was a corporate and commercial lawyer in London for seven years before teaching international environmental and company law at the University of The Bahamas. She became an advisor to the Government of The Bahamas on climate change, including representing the country at the UNFCCC negotiations and as part of the Paris Agreement negotiations. She is currently a member of the UNFCCC Compliance Committee (Facilitative Branch) which assesses country reports under the Kyoto Protocol, and teaches international climate change law, energy resources law and policy, environmental justice and administrative law at Lewis & Clark Law School in the Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law Program.

“I have been very passionate (and concerned) about the climate crisis for a number of years being from a small island developing state,” Professor Benjamin states. “I was also very interested, and frankly disappointed, in what the law asked of large contributors to the climate crisis, mainly non-state actors such as corporations. My PhD gave me the opportunity to really interrogate the barriers and opportunities that the law provides for climate action by these actors.”

Professor Benjamin’s book began as her PhD thesis in 2014, at a time when very few people were discussing the role of corporations in the climate crisis. “I finished my PhD in 2017, and during my first postdoctoral fellowship in 2018, I was encouraged by my research advisor to submit a book proposal to Cambridge University Press,” Professor Benjamin states. “I have my PhD supervisors, research advisors, and many academic colleagues and mentors along the way to thank for their support of my efforts of turning a thesis into a book.”

“One of the most interesting processes in writing this book for me was attempting to ‘translate’ academic, PhD-style language into a more accessible format,” Professor Benjamin says. “While the book does focus on corporate and climate law, I am hoping it is accessible to anyone who is interested in this area, not just law students and academics, but also policy makers, directors of corporate boards, investors, NGOs, and members of the general public who may be interested in what the responsibilities of corporations in the context of climate change is, or should be.”