Australian university offers 'world's first' climate change law degree

An Australian university is offering what it says is the world's first undergraduate degree in climate law, ahead of a predicted increase in lawsuits relating to extreme weather. 

Bond University in the Gold Coast says the degree focuses on law, science and the social and commercial implications of climate change. 

"In order to address and ultimately reverse the wide-reaching effects of climate change, we need a new generation of energised, empowered, and legally educated advocates," the university's website says.  

"The bachelor of laws with a specialisation, major or double major in climate law is the first program of its type in the world.

"Focusing on the law, science, social and commercial implications of climate change, it is designed for undergraduate students who wish to specialise in climate law and contribute to addressing climate change by leading regulatory reform."

Bond University law school dean professor Nick James told The Sydney Morning Herald the degree was created after seeing concern among high school students about the impact of climate change on their futures. 

"My thinking was these people need to learn how to actually get out there and make a difference. What we need at the moment are people who are trained in climate science, but also go out there and advocate for reform.

"Most of our social and political structures and legal structures are holding us back from making the changes that need to be made."

The first cohorts will begin in January, with another intake in May and September. The degree will include a standard bachelor of laws as well as climate-related electives. 

Other universities have similar electives available in environmental and climate law, but not as many and through fewer years of the degree.

Earlier this month, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared a climate emergency to recognise the "devastating impact" extreme weather will have on New Zealand, and the "alarming" loss of species. 

New Zealand joined numerous other countries in declaring an emergency, including the UK, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. Australia has not yet declared a climate emergency. 

Full list of countries that have declared climate emergencies:

  • Scotland (28 April 2019)
  • Wales (29 April 2019)
  • United Kingdom (1 May 2019 - Parliament)
  • Jersey (2 May 2019)
  • Republic of Ireland (9 May 2019)
  • Isle of Man (May 10, 2019 – Government, 18 June 2019 – Parliament)
  • Portugal (June 7, 2019)
  • Holy See (June 2019)
  • Canada (June 17,  2019)
  • France (June 27,  2019) 
  • Argentina (July 17, 2019)
  • Spain (September 17, 2019 – Parliament, January 21,  2020 – Government)
  • Austria (September 25, 2019)
  • Malta (October 22, 2019)
  • Bangladesh (November 13, 2019)
  • Andorra (January 23, 2020)
  • Maldives (February 12, 2020)
  • South Korea (September 24, 2020)
  • Japan (November 20,  2020)
  • New Zealand (December 2, 2020)