Energy and Environmental Law Practice: A Common Ground
Caleb Adebayo, an Associate at Templars, one of the leading law firm in Nigeria, has created a niche for himself, drawing a nexus between his Energy and Environmental law practice to solve real problems in a very unique way, while creating a platform to enable others do so as well. Our Lawyer of the Week had a chat with Adesewa Oreniyi, talking on some cogent issues in these industries, the opportunities therein, especially for law students & young lawyers, and much more.
Caleb graduated from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. He is a Fellow of the Barrack Obama Young African Leaders Initiative Regional Leadership Center (YALI RLC) Fellowship, the United States Consulate Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative (CYFI) and Climate Tracker. He has also been named by the United Nations Alliance of Civilisation (UNAOC) as one of 20 Young Peacebuilders in the West African region. He was the 2018 awardee of the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Nigeria Award for Environmental Leadership. Check him on LinkedIn.
Follow our interview with him below –
Can we meet you?
I’m Caleb Adebayo; lawyer, environmentalist, writer, spoken word poet.
Did you always set out to practice law?
Well, yes, from the tail end of my JS3. Prior to that time, I had wanted to be an aeronautic engineer. Let’s say my real passion eventually got a hold of me.
When did you discover your passion for the environment, renewable energy and your area of practice?
My interest in the environment is long-standing. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in environmental issues. As for energy generally, I figured that out in my first year of practice. And the discovery excited me because of the intersection between the two areas.
Tell us more about environmental law.
It’s simply using the tool of law to enable energy access while still maintaining good environmental standards or even better, improving the environment.
Generally and in your opinion, what are the challenges of your practice area?
Environmental law is not as popular in our clime as many of us practitioners in the area will like it to be. Compliance is low, and environmental litigation is repeatedly stalled by technicalities. Also, not many investors understand the renewable energy spaces and so financing is a continuing challenge, but gladly, the market is finding ways to fix that.
Do tell us more about Earthplus. Why start the initiative?
Earthplus is an environmental nonprofit committed to environmental sustainability, and to ensuring an environmentally responsible citizenry and environmentally responsive government. Our core strategy for doing this is reaching children and youth. I started Earthplus because as a student of environmental law at the University, I saw real, non-legal environmental problems and I saw unique solutions that I could bring to the table and how I could create a platform to enable others do so too. The death of both parents of a close friend in a flooding accident spurred me to action even though I had been mulling over the idea of Earthplus for months.
You’ve got quite a number of accomplishments to your name. What is your drive for success?
I don’t think I have achieved so much, frankly. But I’d say the biggest achievement for a person is that they are setting goals and hitting them, and becoming better versions of themselves everyday. My drive is that- precisely to become a better version of myself everyday, to be the best at whatever I out my hands to, and give others around me the opportunity (and help them too) to do the same.
In your opinion, what’s the current state of the environment; environmental law and it’s enforcement in Nigeria?
Current state of the environment. Globally-dangerous; In Nigeria- equally dangerous.
Environmental law in Nigeria: Like I stated earlier, compliance continues to remain a knotty issue. There’s hardly enough willingness to enforce compliance or even keep in line with international environmental obligations. There is also very little education among citizens. I must mention too, that the structures to aid compliance are not in place.
What aspect of your practice keeps you going?
The good it does to the world. Energy is a global need, perhaps the biggest need of the century. Just as climate change is the biggest problem of the century. The fact that I am working at the intersection of these two spaces is just inspiring.
What prospects does this area of law hold for students who which to practice in this field?
There are a lot of prospects in Energy law practice and Environmental Law practice, both independently and as a combined practice.
An energy and environment lawyer is able to work in private sector (Upstream E&P companies, midstream and downstream as well, law firms, power companies, utility companies, energy finance companies, environmental consultancies etc.), government, global organizations (AfDB, UN, UNEP, World Bank, AU etc.) and of course the non-profit space.
The market is a constantly evolving one, with the need for access to energy consistently rising. And at every stage, there is a need to engage lawyers – and even better, lawyers who understand the energy solutions and still understand the environmental preservation requirements.
What are the top 5 skills you think undergradutes and lawyers who plan to practice in this field must possess?
First, the ability to interpret technical information and apply law to it. The industry is a highly technical one, with so many moving parts, so a lawyer needs to be able to understand it and correctly apply law to it.
Second, attention to detail. The technicality of the industry makes it essential to be finicky and as granular as can be in order not to miss anything.
Third, problem solving skills. Generally, as a lawyer, you’d spend your life helping people and corporations solve their problems. It’s a skill that comes in very hand in the energy and environmental space
I’d merge the fourth as a two-in-one. Negotiation and public speaking (communication) skills. This area of practice involves a lot of negotiation of deals and speaking at board meetings, client meetings and ensuring transaction outcomes are bankable and favorable to your client. Of course, knowledge of your subject matter is key for this.
Finally (and this is because you asked for five), teamwork. You’d often have to work in large teams, some people you’re familiar with, others not so much. This comes in very handy.
In your opinion, what is the compliance and enforcement of evironmental laws in Nigeria looking like 5 years from now.
Things are certainly looking up. Not where they should be, but there’s progress. Hopefully, it continues at a faster rate. And with more young lawyers getting involved in the space, that hope is not misdirected.
Any final words?
The energy and environmental law space is a high-knowledge space that involves a stiff level of skill and mastery. A passion for knowledge is a key attribute for those willing to venture. It’s an exciting space too, one I want to see more young people getting into.