New offering explores companies and governments obligations as well as the legal mechanisms holding them to account
Keele University has launched what it says is the “UK’s first” undergraduate law degree that aims to equip aspiring lawyers with the necessary legal skills to tackle the climate emergency.
The new course, titled Law with Environmental Sustainability, hopes to enable students to explore the role of the law in humanity’s response to the climate crisis and develop a deep understanding of the need to enforce environmental regulations to help address climate change.
Professor Alison Brammer who heads up the university’s law school explained that “the climate crisis affects everyone, and we need legal professionals who understand sustainability and climate change to ensure that everyone — individuals, companies and public bodies — meet their obligations, and are empowered to use the law fully and innovatively to meet the challenge”.
In addition to learning about companies’ and governments’ environmental obligations and the legal mechanisms for enforcement and holding public bodies accountable, the course will also cover the major principles of English and EU law.
“This UK-first course reflects the ethos of the University in providing interdisciplinary study and showing a genuine commitment to environmental sustainability,” Brammer said. “It also speaks to the interests of the generations of students in the 2020s who seek degree education that equips them with the skills and knowledge to impact real world challenges, especially the active pursuit of environmental sustainability.”
This is not the first example of the climate crisis becoming the focus on legal institutions. Back in 2005, Lord Carnwath set up an EU group of “Judges for the Environment”.
The former Supreme Court Justice, who retired from the UK’s top court in 2020, has since made clear through various public lectures and comments that more should be done to combat the climate crisis, predicting the company directors who ignore the effects of their company’s activities on the environment might in the future risk breaching a duty of care. He has also suggested amending the Companies Act 2006 to entrench these environmental principles more clearly in directors’ duties.
Elsewhere, in September 150 legal experts put their names to a letter calling for top City law firms to be “ethically obliged” to advise clients of the dangers of pursuing deals that could be contributing to the climate crisis. The group, made up of KCs, solicitors, academics and legal experts, argued “lawyers must use their influence for good, supporting their clients in making the urgent transformation to business practices that is required to avert disaster”.