The Legal 500 Green Guide: Asia Pacific

Asia Pacific


Market overview

Anna Baubock | Editor

Welcome to the inaugural Asia Pacific Green Guide

The ESG regulatory and governance landscape across the Asia Pacific region is uneven and therefore, legal work and the capacity for lawyers to facilitate positive change is often limited to national priorities.

APAC lacks the standardised regulations that we see in European and North American disclosure and taxonomy frameworks. However, the tighter ESG regulations there are placing more pressure on global banks to not support polluting industries as the legal risks continue to grow.  

The APAC region continues to heavily rely on fossil fuels, as both consumers and producers, including ‘dirty’ fuels such as coal. The region accounts for most of the current coal generation and contains almost the entire global pipeline of new coal plants. It is important to note that the growth of the middle class across the region is also a key driver of domestic demand.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, our research finds law firms from some more coal-dependent countries underrepresented in this guide. Australian national targets are somewhat unambitious and there are tensions between the economic importance of its mining sector and advancing its green agenda.  

Olivia Hart | Senior researcher

Across coal-dependent jurisdictions, we are also seeing some firms bucking the trend, in response to continued disinvestment in coal; this guide reports on some firms handling cutting-edge renewable work in Indonesia which is the second largest producer of coal by energy value globally. We look forward to tracking this in the coming guides, especially in the wake of the plethora of decarbonisation pledges which came out of COP26: both Australia and India have made net zero pledges, albeit by 2050 and 2070 respectively. 

It is also clear that the green transition is not linear; in the Philippines, conventional coal projects are rapidly going out of fashion, meaning increased dependence on LNG as a transition fuel whilst renewable portfolios establish themselves in the market. 

Law firms from Hong Kong take a lead in APAC in terms of the number of law firms contributing to the green transition, followed shortly by New Zealand. Our research shows a particularly high standard of legal work in the ESG space for both jurisdictions. We can only expect this trend to continue; in Hong Kong there are ongoing taxonomy discussions and a desire to align with the EU on this front. 

Singapore is also positioning itself as a global leader on the regulatory front evident in The Green Plan which aims to advance the nation’s sustainable development agenda with ambitious goals including the quadrupling of solar energy deployment by 2025. Singapore and Japan are both widely recognized as a hub for sustainable finance, which is reflected in their legal sectors. 

Across the region, law firms have the opportunity to support clients in new industries, supporting new waves of technology that can facilitate the green transition. An example of this would be the burgeoning green hydrogen market in New Zealand. 

China represents a paradox as a country domestically dependent on coal, with no concrete timelines to phase out consumption, but also rapidly expanding clean energy manufacturing. This is of global significance in bringing down the costs of renewables. The Chinese legal sector is therefore equipped with expertise for the green transition and so we may expect China to catch up with the international market in the coming years.  

We hope you find this guide to some of the key firms engaging with sustainability across the APAC region useful, and we look forward to continually evolving our coverage as the market develops.

Anna Baubock, Editor Olivia Hart, Senior Researcher