Sharona Coutts

Sharona Coutts

Associate
Baker & McKenzie

Biography

Sharona Coutts is an associate in the Environmental Markets team at Baker McKenzie, with a focus on climate change law and policy. Based in Sydney, Sharona advises governments and corporations within Australia and around the world on legal issues relating to climate change, including policy, legislation, as well as legal risks and how to manage them. This includes advice with respect to sustainable finance, such as green bonds, green loans, and the relevant international, regional and domestic laws and regulations. Sharona also advises clients on all aspects of carbon markets, including carbon abatement and sequestration projects in Australia and internationally. More recently, Sharona has developed an expertise with respect to laws and policies relating to hydrogen, along with energy laws and policies more generally.

Prior to joining Baker McKenzie, Sharona spent nearly two decades as an investigative reporter, editor and executive, based mostly in New York City and Los Angeles. Her work spurred criminal investigations, legal reforms, and was recognised through professional accolades. She also managed a diverse team across the United States, and participated in board meetings. She brings that experience to her legal work, providing clients with accurate, actionable products that are written in crisp language that is easy to grasp and use, and which is delivered with a real-world appreciation of the environment – legal, financial and political – in which organisations operate.

She served as Associate to Justice Michael McHugh QC, AC at the High Court of Australia in 2005.

Practice Focus

Sharona focuses on Australian and international climate change law and policy, as well as the rapidly developing regulatory environments relating to climate change-related financial risks and opportunities. She also works in the carbon markets space, and has developed an expertise in relation to hydrogen.

Representative Legal Matters

Carbon sequestration (REDD+)

  • Assisted in the development of a market-making large-scale project to sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide through the combined use of vegetation and soils, known as a "blue" carbon project. The multijurisdictional transaction required support for the establishment of various corporate entities, along with an innovative approach to inter-entity arrangements to ensure that the vehicle was fit for the purposes of a complex carbon transaction. The work also included policy advice about the current uncertainty of international laws relating to this type of project, and strategic advice for how to manage and minimise the risks arising from that uncertainty. 

International Development

  • Advising the Government of Nauru on legal readiness for climate finance in key sectors, along with preparation of foundational documents that would assist in receiving and managing climate finance

General and strategic advice

  • In addition to climate and energy-related matters, Sharona provides legal advice on the ancillary issues that inevitably arise, such as environmental and planning questions, potential for liability under general areas of law including corporate and common law, as well as with respect to managing reputational risks through judicious participation in inquiries, commissions and other avenues for community and government engagement. In this respect, she draws on her extensive experience in the media to both provide and execute advice.

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • Harvard Club of Australia - Councillor

Admissions

  • New South Wales~Australia (2019)
  • High Court of Australia (2019)

Education

  • Columbia University (Master of Science (MS) (Hons) Investigative Journalism) (2008)
  • University of New South Wales (Bachelor of Laws / Bachelor of Arts (BA/LLB)) (2005)
  • Harvard Law School (Visiting Student) (2004)
  • Universite D'Aix-Marseille III, Faculte de Droit et de Science Politique (Visiting Student) (2001)

Languages

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Co-author along with Ilona Millar, "Risky Business: Super case heats up climate debate", Law Society of NSW Journal, December 2019
  • Co-author along with Martijn Wilder, AM, "The mainstreaming of climate litigation," Asian Jurist (a publication of the Law Society of NSW Journal), April 2019