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Fostering Energy Justice in Africa: Promises and Pitfalls

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By Hon. Prof. Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, C.Arb, FCIArb is a Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution at the University of Nairobi, Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration, Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Respected Sustainable Development Policy Advisor, Top Natural Resources Lawyer, Highly-Regarded Dispute Resolution Expert and Awardee of the Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) of Kenya by H.E. the President of Republic of Kenya. He is The African ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, The African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, ADR Practitioner of the Year in Kenya 2021, CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and Author of the Kenya’s First ESG Book: Embracing Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) tenets for Sustainable Development” (Glenwood, Nairobi, July 2023) and Kenya’s First Two Climate Change Law Book: Combating Climate Change for Sustainability (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023), Achieving Climate Justice for Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023) and Promoting Rule of Law for Sustainable Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, January 2024)*

Fostering energy justice is a global concern. Sustainable Development Goal (SGG) 7 under the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. SDG 7 sets out several targets towards realizing this goal including substantially increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix; improvement in energy efficiency; enhancing international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology; and expanding infrastructure and upgrading technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries.

According to the United Nations, achieving SDG 7 is key to the development of all sectors including agriculture, business, communications, education, healthcare and transportation53. It urges all countries to pursue SDG 7 through measures such as accelerating electrification, increasing investments in renewable energy, improving energy efficiency and developing enabling policies and regulatory frameworks. In Africa, Agenda 2063 seeks to enhance utilization of the Continent’s energy sources, especially renewable energy in fostering economic growth and eradicating energy poverty.

Agenda 2063 seeks to promote environmentally sustainable and climate resilient economies and communities in Africa wherein renewable energy (including wind, solar, hydro, bioenergy, ocean tidal waves, geothermal and other renewables) will claim more than half of the energy consumption for households, businesses and organizations. It identifies key challenges in Africa’s energy profile including low production, low consumption, and high dependence on traditional biomass energy in the midst of a huge wealth of unexploited energy resources.

Agenda 2063 identifies energy justice concerns in Africa which include low generation capacity and efficiency, high costs, unstable and unreliable energy supplies, low access to modern energy, insufficient energy infrastructure, and lack of institutional and technical capacity to harness huge resources. It seeks to foster energy justice in Africa through initiatives such as attaining energy security, achieving transition from traditional to modern and clean sources of energy and ensuring access of a majority of their citizens to electricity, and raising the share of renewable energy in total energy production. Agenda 2063 emphasizes that energy is the backbone of Africa’s economic transformation. Actualizing Agenda 2063 is a vital step towards fostering energy justice in Africa.

At the regional level, the Treaty Establishing the East African Community recognizes the role of energy in the East African integration agenda. It urges member states to adopt policies and mechanisms to promote the efficient exploitation, development, joint research and utilisation of various energy resources available within the region. In addition, the Treaty calls upon member states to promote the exploitation and utilisation of new and renewable sources of energy within the East African Community. The Treaty also implores member states to take measures towards supplying affordable energy to their citizens while taking cognisance of the protection of the environment.

There has been some progress towards fostering energy justice in Africa. It has been observed that the continent has made progress towards universal energy access in recent years with electricity coverage increasing from forty four to fifty six per cent of the continent’s population between 2010 and 2023. It has been pointed out that while some African countries including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have been steadily increasing their electrification rate and could achieve universal access, others such as Algeria, Carbo Verde, Egypt, Mauritius, Morocco, Seychelles, and Tunisia are already at or nearly at the point of universal access demonstrating the continent’s efforts towards energy justice. In addition, there has been increased production of renewable energy in Africa with hydro, solar, wind, biofuels and biomass accounting for a significant percentage of the total primary energy produced on the continent.

Renewable energy investments are beginning to bear fruit in several African countries with wind and solar power dominating non-hydro renewable energy generation and installed capacity. Further, it has been highlighted that East African economies are using available geothermal resources to generate an estimated 630 MW of power annually with Kenya being an African leader for operational geothermal power plants, with its geothermal power production totaling more than 40 per cent of the country’s total electricity production. It is therefore evident that there has been progress towards enhancing energy access and security in Africa.

The United Nations observed that Africa has made substantial progress in proactive policy development, energy infrastructure resource mobilisation and enhanced independent power production. However, despite this progress, there are several energy justice concerns in Africa related to access, security, reliability and affordability of energy. The International Energy Agency estimates that nearly 600 million people or an equivalent of 43 per cent of the Continent’s population lack access to electricity. It further points out that less than a fifth of African countries have targets to reach universal electricity access by 2030.

It has been observed that the Sub-Saharan region of Africa has the lowest rate of access to electricity with just nearly half of the population having access to electricity compared to the global access rate of nearly 90 per cent. Most of these people live in rural areas, and indeed, despite numerous national initiatives, rural electrification remains a significant difficulty for most African nations.

Another key challenge in access to electricity in Africa is the significant difference in electrification between urban and rural areas. It has been noted that there is a substantial urban-rural difference in electricity access, with electrification in urban areas averaging nearly 78 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and rural areas electrified on average at 28 per cent. In addition, it has been observed that while Africa has made some progress towards enhancing access to electricity, progress remains slow in promoting clean cooking facilities.

The United Nations points out that Africa does poorly compared to other regions regarding access to clean cooking since a majority of its population relies on traditional biomass for preparing food. Bio-energy sources such as charcoal, wood fuel and dung remain the most common source of energy for cooking in Africa especially among the rural population. However, use of these sources is associated with environmental challenges such as air and soil pollution and environmental degradation through deforestation. Further, the use of such sources of energy in cooking has been linked to more than 500,000 annual deaths associated with indoor pollution.

It has also rightly been observed that in the African set up, production and use of biomass fuels is the responsibility of women and children. However, due to diminishing biomass energy supplies, women and children in some parts of Africa are spending increasing amounts of time fetching firewood and other biomass fuels leaving little time for other productive activities for women; and limited study-time particularly for the girl child. Further, it has been asserted that Africa’s energy potential, especially renewable energy, is enormous, yet only a fraction of it is being currently employed.

The potential for renewable energy production in Africa is very important because of the vast resources of solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass available in the continent. However, several challenges remain in exploiting these resources in terms of developing adequate infrastructure, increasing access to finance, and establishing appropriate regulations and targets to diversify the continent’s energy mix. It has been pointed out that despite its vast potential, Africa has the lowest share of modern renewable energy compared to other continents and the world. Another key concern in the energy sector in Africa relates to efficiency, reliability and affordability.

Africa has been classified as the least energy efficient continent in the world. It has been observed that the energy sector in most African countries is crippled with unreliable electricity supply that often results in frequent power cuts which last for days in some areas. Such a situation forces most people to resort to alternative sources of energy including bioenergy and generators that are powered by oil products resulting in environmental concerns.

According to the International Energy Agency, providing access to electricity is essential, but access has to bring with it a reliable supply of electricity if households, businesses and public services are to reap the full benefits. A lack of reliable electricity supply disrupts daily lives and activities, lowers trust and use of the grid, increases costs for consumers and utilities and may result in the use alternative sources of energy with significant environmental impacts. Energy affordability is also a key challenge in most sub-Saharan African Countries due to the high cost of power relative to income.

The foregoing challenges contribute to energy injustices and insufficient energy access in Africa. According to the African Development Bank, insufficient energy access manifests itself in hundreds of thousands of deaths annually due to the use of wood-burning stoves for cooking; handicaps the operations of hospitals and emergency services; compromises educational attainment; and drives up the cost of doing business in the continent. Further, it has been pointed out that low access to energy in Africa has implications on health, education, poverty reduction and Sustainable Development and contributes to energy poverty resulting in energy justice concerns.

Energy poverty in Africa has been linked to inadequate and poor planning, poor regulatory frameworks for electrification, underperforming state-owned enterprises, lack of investment in infrastructure and poor maintenance of existing energy and electricity infrastructure. It is imperative to address these problems in order to foster energy justice in Africa.

 

*This is an extract from the Book: Promoting Rule of Law for Sustainable Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, January 2024) by Hon. Prof.  Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution, Senior Advocate of Kenya, Chartered Arbitrator, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 (CIArb Kenya), African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Africa ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, Member of National Environment Tribunal (NET) Emeritus (2017 to 2023) and Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration nominated by Republic of Kenya. Prof. Kariuki Muigua is a foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert in Kenya. Prof. Kariuki Muigua teaches Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law, The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP) and Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies. He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Prof. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates and Africa Trustee Emeritus of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators 2019-2022. Prof. Muigua is a 2023 recipient of President of the Republic of Kenya Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) Award for his service to the Nation as a Distinguished Expert, Academic and Scholar in Dispute Resolution and recognized among the top 5 leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts in Band 1 in Kenya by the Chambers Global Guide 2022 and was listed in the Inaugural THE LAWYER AFRICA Litigation Hall of Fame 2023 as one of the Top 50 Most Distinguished Litigation Lawyers in Kenya and the Top Arbitrator in Kenya in 2023.

 

*References*

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News & Analysis

The Nexus between Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) and Arbitration

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By Hon. Prof. Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, C.Arb, FCIArb is a Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution at the University of Nairobi, Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration, Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Respected Sustainable Development Policy Advisor, Top Natural Resources Lawyer, Highly-Regarded Dispute Resolution Expert and Awardee of the Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) of Kenya by H.E. the President of Republic of Kenya. He is the Academic Champion of ADR 2024, the African ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, the African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, ADR Practitioner of the Year in Kenya 2021, CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and Author of the Kenya’s First ESG Book: Embracing Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) tenets for Sustainable Development” (Glenwood, Nairobi, July 2023) and Kenya’s First Two Climate Change Law Book: Combating Climate Change for Sustainability (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023), Achieving Climate Justice for Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023) and Promoting Rule of Law for Sustainable Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, January 2024)*

Arbitration is form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms. ADR refers to a set of mechanisms that are applied in management of disputes without resort to adversarial litigation. It has been described as a private and consensual process where parties to a dispute agree to present their grievances to a third party for resolution. It is argued that ESG principles have become a model for sustainable business development through which a corporations’ goal for solving environmental, social and governance problems is achieved. Consequently, ESG considerations have an increasing impact in international business as evidenced by the incorporation of sustainability clauses in investment contracts. In such contracts, investors are required to adhere to the concept of sustainable development as envisaged under the contracts and failure to do so may result in ESG related disputes.

In the wake of the climate change debate, there have been calls for responsible business practice towards climate change mitigation through measures such as reduction of carbon emissions. The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has raised the awareness of the need for global efforts to combat climate change and the role of responsible and ethical corporate behavior towards achieving this goal. Further, corporations are increasingly required to safeguard human rights as envisaged by ‘S’ pillar of ESG.

However, some corporations have been accused of violating these ESG concerns as a result of their business practices. Some corporations have been accused of failing to promote climate change mitigation through reduction of carbon emissions and transitioning to cleaner energy production. Further, some corporations have been accused of violating fundamental human rights such as the right to a clean and healthy environment especially in the investment sphere in Africa. These instances have resulted in an increasing number of ESG-related disputes. The growth of ESG concerns has seen corporations being increasingly required to embrace ESG principles in their business practices. Consequently, ESG clauses are being adopted in commercial and investment contracts.

In case of violation of such clauses, ESG related disputes are bound to occur. It has been asserted that adoption of ESG related practices into pre-existing social and governance models adopted by corporations would be disruptive. The inclusion of ESG clauses in commercial contracts not only points to the importance of ESG concerns to companies but it also serves as potential source of disputes where such considerations are not complied with. ESG issues are not only reshaping corporate behavior across the globe but can also be a potential battleground in international disputes25. This creates the need for an effective mechanism of management of such disputes in order to enhance ESG principles in the quest for Sustainable Development.

Arbitration has for a long time been the most viable mechanism for management of international commercial and investment disputes. It offers a neutral forum for the management of disputes and addresses some of the concerns that parties may have in relation to the other parties’ legal system. In international commercial and investment arbitration, parties are reluctant to submit to the jurisdiction of the other party due to the likelihood of favoritism by the host judicial system. Further, arbitration has the potential of facilitating expeditious management of disputes.

In international commercial and investment arbitration, there is need to manage disputes expeditiously in order to preserve the commercial interests of parties. The viability of arbitration in management of international commercial disputes is further enhanced by the availability of a legal framework for the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards. The New York Convention provides the legal framework for the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards across different jurisdictions. Consequently, the adoption of ESG elements in international commercial and investment agreements has resulted in the use of arbitration to manage disputes arising from such agreements.

ESG concerns have become prominent in investor-state arbitration with arbitral tribunals having to determine issues relating to climate change, corruption and human rights. It has been asserted that the growth of ESG will redefine the practice of arbitration as it seeks to adapt to the new concerns created by ESG. However, the flexibility of arbitration and its ability to adapt to emerging concerns means that it is well positioned to manage ESG disputes. However, there is need for reform in order to enhance the role of arbitration in managing ESG disputes.

*This article is an abridged version of the Article The Place of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) in Arbitration (Available for download at Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates Website, follow the link) by Hon. Prof.  Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution, Senior Advocate of Kenya, Chartered Arbitrator, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 (CIArb Kenya), African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Africa ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, Member of National Environment Tribunal (NET) Emeritus (2017 to 2023) and Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration nominated by Republic of Kenya and Academic Champion of ADR 2024. Prof. Kariuki Muigua is a foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert in Kenya. Prof. Kariuki Muigua teaches Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law, The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP) and Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies. He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Prof. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates and Africa Trustee Emeritus of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators 2019-2022. Prof. Muigua is a 2023 recipient of President of the Republic of Kenya Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) Award for his service to the Nation as a Distinguished Expert, Academic and Scholar in Dispute Resolution and recognized among the top 5 leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts in Band 1 in Kenya by the Chambers Global Guide 2024 and was listed in the Inaugural THE LAWYER AFRICA Litigation Hall of Fame 2023 as one of the Top 50 Most Distinguished Litigation Lawyers in Kenya and the Top Arbitrator in Kenya in 2023.

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Muigua. K., ‘Realising Environmental, Social and Governance Tenets for Sustainable Development’ available at http://kmco.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Realising-Environmental-Social-andGovernance-Tenets-of-Sustainable-Development-Kariuki-Muigua-July-2022.pdf (accessed on 28/09/2022)

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News & Analysis

Enhancing the Role of Arbitration in Management of ESG Disputes

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By Hon. Prof. Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, C.Arb, FCIArb is a Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution at the University of Nairobi, Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration, Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Respected Sustainable Development Policy Advisor, Top Natural Resources Lawyer, Highly-Regarded Dispute Resolution Expert and Awardee of the Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) of Kenya by H.E. the President of Republic of Kenya. He is the Academic Champion of ADR 2024, the African ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, the African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, ADR Practitioner of the Year in Kenya 2021, CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and Author of the Kenya’s First ESG Book: Embracing Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) tenets for Sustainable Development” (Glenwood, Nairobi, July 2023) and Kenya’s First Two Climate Change Law Book: Combating Climate Change for Sustainability (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023), Achieving Climate Justice for Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023) and Promoting Rule of Law for Sustainable Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, January 2024)*

Arbitration represents a viable mechanism for management of ESG disputes. The following are proposals for interventions towards embracing arbitration in management of ESG disputes for Sustainable Development towards enhancing the use of arbitration in ESG disputes:

Enhancing Knowledge in ESG Concerns

Statistics show that many ESG related disputes are being managed through arbitration. According to the International Chamber of Commerce, engineering, construction and energy disputes represent the highest number of cases handled representing 38% of all cases registered so far. Such disputes entail ESG components such as renewable energy projects, environmental protection and human rights concerns. This demonstrates that ESG and arbitration are inextricably linked. Arbitration practitioners thus need to equip themselves with knowledge in ESG related matters in order to be better placed to manage ESG related disputes.

Promoting Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This concept entails a combination of elements including environmental protection, economic development and social issues. The importance of Sustainable Development has seen the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals as the global blueprint of development. Most of the Sustainable Development Goals entail aspects of ESG such as clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, industry, innovation and infrastructure and climate action. Arbitration practitioners should therefore promote the principles of sustainable development when managing ESG related disputes. This could entail requiring investors to comply with the host country environmental laws and ESG standards in mining, energy and construction disputes which have an ESG bearing.

Upholding Human Rights

The ‘S’ pillar in ESG seeks to promote responsible and ethical corporate behavior through aspects such as respect for human rights. However, corporate behavior especially in the investment sphere in Africa has resulted in gross violation of human rights. Some corporations which have invested in oil exploration have been accused of human right abuses, environmental degradation and unsustainable peace due to their business culture. In Kenya, a multinational corporation that has invested in the agricultural sector has been accused of human right abuses such as killings, rape, and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence allegedly committed by its guards, bad labour practices and land injustices against the neighbouring communities. Some of these disputes have ended up in arbitration where tribunals are called upon to adjudicate on human rights issues. Arbitrators should thus seek to uphold human rights in such disputes by rendering awards that are in line with human rights standards. By promoting human rights, arbitrators will be embracing the ‘S’ pillar that is fundamental in the ESG debate.

Promoting Good Governance

The Governance pillar in ESG seeks to achieve good financial and accounting standards as well as legal and regulatory compliance, such as transparency, corporate structures and ethics in corporate conduct. It also seeks to align Governance with the Sustainable Development Goals where governance issues include industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9); peace, justice and strong institutions (Goal 16); and partnerships with public and private institutions (Goal 17). Good governance can be promoted through arbitration by rendering awards that adhere to good governance practices such as transparency, accountability, reporting and disclosure.

Seeking Expert Assistance in Complex ESG Matters

Arbitration has a significant role in promoting ESG tenets in areas such as climate change. Arbitrators play a significant role in shaping and adapting international law to respond to the climate crisis. However, in some instances, arbitration has been slow to act to act in response to the climate crisis. Some climate change concerns such as determining adherence to climate change commitments through low carbon transition requires arbitrators to be fully informed and engaged in such concepts. This may require expert analysis and guidance from persons with requisite knowledge in environmental matters. Arbitrators should therefore seek expert assistance in such issues in order to be fully informed and render awards that promote ESG principles.

Conclusion

The relationship between Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and arbitration continues to grow. Adoption of ESG by corporations as a means of promoting responsible and ethical business practices and the wide use of arbitration in management of international commercial and investment disputes points to increased use of arbitration in management of ESG related disputes. In managing such disputes, arbitrators should promote ESG considerations whilst balancing the needs and interests of parties involved in issues such as climate change. Arbitration represents a viable mechanism for managing ESG disputes while simultaneously promoting Sustainable Development. There is need to enhance the viability of arbitration in management of ESG related disputes.

*This article is an abridged version of the Article The Place of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) in Arbitration by Hon. Prof.  Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution, Senior Advocate of Kenya, Chartered Arbitrator, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 (CIArb Kenya), African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Africa ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, Member of National Environment Tribunal (NET) Emeritus (2017 to 2023) and Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration nominated by Republic of Kenya and Academic Champion of ADR 2024. Prof. Kariuki Muigua is a foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert in Kenya. Prof. Kariuki Muigua teaches Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law, The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP) and Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies. He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Prof. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates and Africa Trustee Emeritus of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators 2019-2022. Prof. Muigua is a 2023 recipient of President of the Republic of Kenya Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) Award for his service to the Nation as a Distinguished Expert, Academic and Scholar in Dispute Resolution and recognized among the top 5 leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts in Band 1 in Kenya by the Chambers Global Guide 2024 and was listed in the Inaugural THE LAWYER AFRICA Litigation Hall of Fame 2023 as one of the Top 50 Most Distinguished Litigation Lawyers in Kenya and the Top Arbitrator in Kenya in 2023.

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Way Forward in Managing Risk and Liability of ESG Litigation

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By Hon. Prof. Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, C.Arb, FCIArb is a Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution at the University of Nairobi, Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration, Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Respected Sustainable Development Policy Advisor, Top Natural Resources Lawyer, Highly-Regarded Dispute Resolution Expert and Awardee of the Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) of Kenya by H.E. the President of Republic of Kenya. He is the Academic Champion of ADR 2024, the African ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, the African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, ADR Practitioner of the Year in Kenya 2021, CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and Author of the Kenya’s First ESG Book: Embracing Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) tenets for Sustainable Development” (Glenwood, Nairobi, July 2023) and Kenya’s First Two Climate Change Law Book: Combating Climate Change for Sustainability (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023), Achieving Climate Justice for Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, October 2023) and Promoting Rule of Law for Sustainable Development (Glenwood, Nairobi, January 2024)*

In order for companies to manage the risk and liability associated with ESG litigation, it is imperative for them to strengthen their ESG reporting and disclosure requirements. It has been observed that recent ESG trends have driven the requirement by businesses to report on ESG aspects such as human rights and environmental standards as evidenced by emerging legal frameworks requiring companies to report on human rights and environmental issues, emerging mandatory human rights due diligence legislation, and increased legal enforcement and litigation risks.

As a result, it is important for companies to treat public disclosures in relation to ESG matters seriously and consider taking independent auditing and verification steps, particularly for annual ESG-related reports and/or other material ESG disclosures. Such an approach can help companies effectively manage and reduce the risk of ESG related litigation.

In addition, it has been argued that there is need for companies to embrace best practices in order to mitigate the risks of ESG litigation and also address such litigation when it arises. For example, it has been suggested that companies should conduct risk assessments in order to determine the likelihood of ESG related suits and deal with such concerns immediately; undertake public engagement to order to ensure openness and transparency in ESG matters; build knowledge on ESG issues in order to be well equipped to handle ESG claims when they arise; and strengthen their management systems and internal practices in order to enhance compliance with ESG standards.

It has been observed that ESG litigation is associated with several risks to companies including regulatory and enforcement risk, reputational risk, damage to brand, potential disruption by activists and financial risks such as loss of access to capital and financial losses as a result of damages, fines and other forms of monetary compensation. It is also imperative to strengthen access to justice in ESG matters. It has been pointed out that in order for litigants to be given the right of access to courts in ESG matters, whether individually, collectively, or as a third party or amicus curiae, the criteria pertaining to standing, which differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, must be followed.

It is also necessary to widen and strengthen the jurisdiction of courts on ESG issues such as climate change. Further, it has been pointed out that there is need to embrace techniques such as litigation funding in order to provide the financial stability and support needed to pursue legal action without compromising on the quality of representation or legal strategy in ESG matters. It has been argued that litigation funding can be an effective strategy for needy claimants to pursue claims against a company that they may ordinarily not be able to afford, enabling them to ultimately to hold companies to account for ESG failures.

Finally, it is imperative for companies to think creatively and strategically in order to effectively resolve ESG claims. It has been pointed out that ESG claims may significantly differ from other types of litigation companies have previously faced, hence the need for creative solutions towards these claims. For example, in ESG claims, there is need to bear in mind both the litigation aspects of a dispute, and broader ESG concerns including those around reputation and access to capital. As a result, it has been suggested that there is need for companies to be alive to the potential for resolving ESG claims outside the court room, and what mitigation strategies could be deployed to avoid litigation.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms are ideal in managing ESG disputes by fostering privacy, cost effective and expeditious management of disputes while also allowing parties to select experts to hear and determine contentious ESG matters. In addition, it has correctly been observed that businesses would normally prefer to have their disputes managed in a private manner in order to prevent ruining their image in public and also in an expeditious and cost-effective manner in order to protect business interests.

It has also been pointed out that the use of ADR mechanisms such as mediation in managing ESG related disputes is a practical demonstration of a sustainability-oriented business culture since mediation can offer a quick, flexible, consensual and win-win solution based on the mutually accepted interests of the parties. ADR mechanisms can therefore be an effective tool to enable companies manage the risks associated with ESG litigation.

*This is an extract from the Article: Fostering Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Litigation for Sustainability, Available at: https://kmco.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Fostering-Environmental-Social-and-Governance-ESG-Litigation-for-Sustainability.pdf (Accessed 2nd March 2024) by Hon. Prof.  Kariuki Muigua, OGW, PhD, Professor of Environmental Law and Dispute Resolution, Senior Advocate of Kenya, Chartered Arbitrator, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 (CIArb Kenya), African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Africa ADR Practitioner of the Year 2022, Member of National Environment Tribunal (NET) Emeritus (2017 to 2023) and Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration nominated by Republic of Kenya and Academic Champion of ADR 2024. Prof. Kariuki Muigua is a foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert in Kenya. Prof. Kariuki Muigua teaches Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law, The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP) and Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies. He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Prof. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates and Africa Trustee Emeritus of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators 2019-2022. Prof. Muigua is a 2023 recipient of President of the Republic of Kenya Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) Award for his service to the Nation as a Distinguished Expert, Academic and Scholar in Dispute Resolution and recognized among the top 5 leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts in Band 1 in Kenya by the Chambers Global Guide 2024 and was listed in the Inaugural THE LAWYER AFRICA Litigation Hall of Fame 2023 as one of the Top 50 Most Distinguished Litigation Lawyers in Kenya and the Top Arbitrator in Kenya in 2023.

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