Skip to main content
School of Law

Queen Mary launches the UK’s first LLB specialising in climate change

Our new undergraduate law degree allows you to gain knowledge, skills and practical experience in the ever-growing area of climate change and justice. Programme Director Professor David Whyte explains more:


Addressing the climate crisis

First of all, we cannot ignore the fact that climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. Because of the pressing nature of the emergency and its potential consequences, we need to incorporate the problem of climate change – and most importantly, its causes, into everything we design and everything we plan for. When it comes to universities, we need to put an understanding of climate change and sustainability into the subject matter we teach and the things we study. Some people call it ‘greening the curriculum,’ but really it is just getting real about the size of the problem that faces us.

This includes thinking about climate and sustainability in how we teach and study law. Law and its institutions (parliaments, law enforcers, the courts etc.) play a key role in mediating our impact on the environment. Indeed, we can’t fully understand the climate crisis without understanding the role that the law has played in getting us to this point.

Moving forward by confronting the past

We need to remember that the tumultuous changes that relatively recent systems of European colonisation and industrial production brought to the world have had the most profound consequences for the planet. And that those processes were fundamentally supported by law.

Legal concepts such as terra nullius (land belonging to no-one) and the theory of lack underpinned the colonial project, all of which helped establish a method of colonial-environmental violence that remains in place. The emergence of the earliest systems of regulation in industrial capitalism provided a legal basis for pollution. And the development of capitalist systems of commercial law enabled the true costs of industrial pollution to be hidden from view.

So, whilst law does have a role to play in dealing with the climate crisis, we also need to recognise the central role that law played in creating the crisis. Understanding the role that law has played from both of those angles allows us to see what we need to do differently if we are to confront this crisis and transform our economy and society.

Shaping your future and protecting our planet

The programme will offer a unique opportunity in the final year to conduct a research project in collaboration with an environmental NGO or a campaign organisation. We work with a large number of partner organisations and are in discussion with them about hosting student projects. They include environmental campaigning organisations like Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, People and Planet and Lawyers are Responsible, gas well as global NGOs such as Amnesty and Global Witness, trade unions and policy organisations such as the Climate Change Committee.

One of the reasons we are doing this is to prepare students to work in organisations with a commitment to genuinely sustainable ways of living and working. This might be in the campaign or NGO sector, but we know that all organisations are going to have to take climate change seriously sooner or later, and therefore we know that the kind of skills and perspectives that our graduates will be equipped with will have universal relevance.

Find out more about the Law and Climate Justice LLB.



Back to top