Environmental Law Group

The Environmental Law Group comprises pre-eminent environmental law scholars who are passionate advocates for evidence-based environmental policymaking and regulatory development at the global, national and local levels. We are one of the largest and most experienced groups of environmental law scholars in Australia and the Asia Pacific. Our collaborative multi- and inter-disciplinary projects include academic, governmental, non-governmental and industry colleagues around the world. We help craft workable legal and policy solutions to the environmental challenges faced by human society and to create environmentally sustainable futures.

The Environmental Law Group encompasses four themes: 

  • Governing Oceans and Coasts in a Changing Environment 
  • Environmental Security and the Energy-Water-Food-Climate Nexus 
  • Law for Sustainable Cities: Economy, Community and Space 
  • Nature Rights and Earth Governance 

Collectively these themes cover the most dynamic areas of environmental law, ensuring the application of scientific, ethical, theoretical, legal and other insights into practice and policy development in respect of the greatest existential issues of our time.

Projects
Governing Oceans and Coasts in a Changing Environment

The oceans cover 70% of the planet and provide vital avenues of transportation and communication, critical supplies of living and non-living resources, and ecosystem services that underpin human existence and well-being. Ocean-based activities such as fishing, shipping, seabed mining, laying of underwater cables and pipelines, oil and gas exploration and extraction, generation of off-shore energy, bioprospecting and ocean tourism all pose significant governance and regulatory challenges. These challenges are made more complex by the effects of climate change and ocean acidification and by their interaction with land-based activities and coastal zone and port development. Our research focuses on legal and governance concerns relating to:  

  • the changing ocean economy: including sectoral (e.g. low-carbon shipping, deep seabed mining), environmental (i.e. ecosystems and associated benefits) and social (e.g. livelihoods, coastal migration) changes 
  • the changing ocean environment: including effects of climate change and ocean acidification on existing and future governance arrangements (e.g. for fisheries and whaling), climate mitigation and adaption (e.g. marine geo-engineering and marine carbon) 
  • shaping our oceans for future generations: including access for future generations to ocean resources (e.g. fisheries, minerals) and ecosystem services, including integrated ocean accounting  
  • monitoring and enforcement: including monitoring of marine industries, compliance mechanisms, and dispute settlement 
Environmental Security and the Energy-Water-Food-Climate Nexus

Energy, water, food and climate are the pillars on which our society and security rest. Yet, economic and population growth threaten the accessibility and reliability of existing water, energy and food supplies. Globally there is an increasing consensus that governing the energy-water-food-climate nexus is one of the defining challenges of our time. Despite the increasing rhetoric of integrated resource management, however, the interconnections and impacts between these sectors remain underappreciated and underexplored. Our research examines the way in which pressures in any one sector produce tensions in others. We identify the successes and key flashpoints of law and governance responses with a view to developing truly integrated legal and policy responses to regulate potential negative impacts and the incentive structures and mix of public, private and community actors needed to best respond to local, national and global nexus challenges. Our focus includes:

  • energy transitions: including the regulatory levers to break fossil fuel lock-ins and deliver low-carbon energy sources, while minimising impacts on biodiversity, food, water and other land uses
  • prevention of resource theft: including water theft and illegal degradation and pillaging of natural resources
  • governing complex nexus issues: legal and governance arrangements to respond to cross-sector and cross-scale interactions between water, energy, food and climate, so as to increase efficiency, reduce trade-offs, build synergies and improve governance across sectors
Law for Sustainable Cities: Economy, Community and Space

Cities have always been experimental sites of collective social change, from the era of the city-state through to the contemporary urban megalopolis. In contemporary times, the twin challenges of climate change and rocketing inequality create increasing pressures to ‘think big’, imagining system-level and transformative change. Our research examines specific ways that the developing body of urban law can help to nurture just, healthy relationships and connections between residents that express respect, care and dignity via a robust democratic dialogue about rights, responsibilities and relationships between cities and citizens. Reaching beyond environmental law as traditionally understood, our research seeks to interrogate and develop legal frameworks that enable a meaningful shared life in a world well cared for. Our focus includes:

  • legal and policy frameworks for the creation of inclusive, convivial and ecologically thriving public spaces
  • legal and policy frameworks to sustain local economic flows of money, resources and convivial exchange that supports both community sociality and ecological integrity
Nature Rights and Earth Governance

The naming of the Anthropocene requires humankind to acknowledge the profound consequences of the scale and speed of the global change that human actions have wrought. This acknowledgement demands major changes in law to provide for a greater enmeshment of humans and nature and a more holistic and sustainable approach to governance of the planet on which we live. Our research is leading this rethinking through theoretical and practical analysis of the concept of ‘nature rights’ with a view to offering a transnational framework to interrogate how intra- and inter-generational inequity and non-human species should be accounted for. This includes analysis and development of frameworks capable of re-balancing state responsibility and the environment and for integrating environmental, public health, biodiversity and heritage concerns by synthesising them into rights not over but of nature. Our focus includes: 

  • Earth systems law 
  • implementing nature rights: including rights and legal personhood for nature
People
Members
Affiliates
Postgraduate researchers
  • Zsofia Korosy
  • Millicent McCreath
  • Priscilla Rivas
  • Rachel Ravignani
  • Carley Bartlett
  • Caterina Guidi
  • Pat Martin
  • Chris McElwain
  • Mark Hamilton
  • Alice Bleby
  • Aaron McIlroy