03 September 2021

Interview with Annika Reynolds, founder of Green Law

Alvaro Navarro Sotillos, Editor in chief of The Impact Lawyers Magazine, had the pleasure to conduct a message interview with Annika Reynolds. Annika is the founder of GreenLaw, an ANU Law Reform and Social Project. She created GreenLaw because she was heavily involved in environmental advocacy but saw limited engagement with legal institutions by young people. She is a current Law (Honours)/International Security Studies student at the Australian National University, with a minor in Korean. She is a research assistant at the ANU College of Law on federal environmental regulation, and matters of international law in the South Pacific, and is currently consulting for the Australian Conservation Foundation. Annika is a Board Director for Zero Emissions Noosa Inc (ZEN), providing strategic guidance for ZEN’s communication and advocacy. 

1. What is the main purpose of Green Law?

GreenLaw is a young person-led organisation empowering the next generation of lawyers to understand the importance of environmental law and the power of legal institutions to further climate justice. Through legal research tasks, GreenLaw aims to empower environmentally-conscious organisations to engage effectively with legal institutions.

Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation, and GreenLaw is working to ensure that young lawyers have the ability to tackle it.

2. What are the main actions carried out by Green Law?

GreenLaw works in collaboration with environmental organisations to produce legal research, law reform packages and policy development that will make a meaningful contribution to law reform in Australia, laying the building blocks for a more sustainable, compassionate future. 

We are lucky to have the support of renowned academics to complete our work, enabling our members to develop critical legal skills and knowledge in environmental law. 

3. Only students participate in this Project or does it count with the collaboration of lawyers?

GreenLaw is driven by student managers and members. Annika Reynolds, our founder, is responsible for GreenLaw’s strategic direction, final publications and external communications; whilst Sarah Mack, our teams manager, ensures GreenLaw members are supported and that our projects run smoothly. However, we are thankful for the supervisory support provided by academics from the ANU College of Law and we are open to collaboration with other external legal partners.

4. Does Green Law count with the help of sponsors or donors?

GreenLaw does not currently have any sponsors or donors.

5. Is the Australian judicial system aware of climate change?

The judiciary is a critical institution for ensuring government and private actors are properly mitigating against climate change and accounting for environmental damage. The judiciary is a powerful way for members of the public to hold government decision-makers accountable and ensure our leaders are acting in the public interest. As the GreenLaw Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) Act Research Team found in our submission to the EPBC Act Independent Review:

“[GreenLaw’s submission] demonstrates that public interest litigation is providing needed government accountability in a federal regulatory scheme that is worringly opaque without public intervention.”

However, there are limits to the judiciary’s involvement in this space. GreenLaw also found that public interest litigation on EPBC Act decisions accounts for less than 0.06% of the Australian Federal Court’s yearly caseload, demonstrating that Courts are being sidelined from climate change related issues, especially in the federal jurisdiction. 

6. Wich steps could take a law firm to be sustainable?

Law firms have a responsibility to not only promote internal sustainability measures, such as using renewable energy or increasing recycling, but to support transformative law reform for society-wide climate action. It is critical that established lawyers and law firms work with the upcoming generation of lawyers, such as GreenLaw, to develop law reform models and ensure there is cultural change within the legal profession – so that we, together, can address the climate crisis.

7. From your point of view, after this pandemic, will society be more aware of climate change?

Climate change was a global issue before the pandemic, and it will remain a global issue well into the future. How the world responded the pandemic should give us hope, and inspire those of us working in legal policy to be ambitious with our reform agendas. Countries are capable of rapidly changing its social customs and economies when it is in the interest of the public, highlighting that we can work towards major changes to address the climate crisis. In one sense, the Covid-19 pandemic is a lesson in global citizenship, one that must be equally applied to our collective response to climate change.

8. What are your projections regarding the regulation of climate change in the future?

It is difficult to predict how climate change will be regulated in the future. Climate change is a complex issue, and will involve changes to the way we structure our economies, societies and relationship with nature.

However, GreenLaw is advocating for a more sustainable regulatory agenda in Australia’s future, especially as we look to economic recovery after the pandemic. We are currently working with Farmers for Climate Action to develop a legal framework for a national strategy on sustainable agriculture. How Australia manages its land and agriculture will be instrumental to ensuring the rural backbone of the Australian Community is resilient against the climate crisis. 

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