Legal tools have a critical role to play in addressing global sustainability challenges. However, the power of the law to address climate change, biodiversity loss, water insecurity, and to drive sustainable transitions in the energy and food sectors has not yet been fully exploited. These are all inherently interdisciplinary issues that require innovation from multiple areas of expertise.

The Oxford Sustainable Law Programme (SLP) houses a multidisciplinary research centre that develops impact-focused, robust, and evidence-based knowledge. Founded by Thom Wetzer, the SLP is as a joint initiative of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and the Faculty of Law and synthesises scientific and legal expertise from across the University of Oxford and our global network of academic and practitioner partners.

The SLP works to:

  • conduct world-leading and actionable research that facilitates the systemic changes needed to equitably address the world’s biggest sustainability challenges;
  • deliver impact-focused education to students at Oxford and partner organisations, and to the wider legal and scientific communities through our executive education programmes;
  • engage with a wide range of partners in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors to translate research insight into practical application.

Our ongoing research covers the following priority areas:

  • Credible climate commitments: developing legal mechanisms to ensure that climate commitments are meaningful and generate accountability.
  • Net zero law and governance: address emerging legal challenges related to the net-zero transition, including management of carbon sinks and carbon markets.
  • Sustainable finance: shaping the way the financial sector responds to the risks associated with climate change, including pioneering research into emerging climate-related legal risks. 
  • Climate law and science: conducting scientific research that is relevant to emerging issues in climate litigation and policy, including supporting the improved use of scientific evidence in the court room, understanding the impacts of climate change on health, and evaluating the role that carbon dioxide removal should play in climate change mitigation. 
  • Strategic litigation: supporting the development of climate lawsuits designed to affect systemic change by quantifying losses attributable to policy delays, scoping legal opportunities to bring climate-related legal actions through international courts, and developing resources to support lawyers identify attributable climate impacts and potential defendants.