Professor James predicted lawyers would be in demand due to an increase in prosecutions by environmental regulators, and growing numbers of compensation claims against governments for failing to respond adequately to climate change or compelling them to take action.
Shareholders might also increasingly take on boards for failing to prepare the company for climate change, and investors could act against companies for failing to disclose climate-related risk. Human rights issues due to forced migration are also a looming problem.
Professor James said lawyers were already beginning to specialise in climate. “From talking to employers, there’s a lot of interest,” he said. “They see there will be increasing demand in the future, in the next few years.”
The first cohort will begin in January. They will study a standard bachelor of laws, with climate-related electives, beginning with a broad introduction to climate science.
“Then we start to drill down on particular legal topics,” Professor James said. “They’ll look at the impact of climate change on natural resources and natural resources law.
“They will look at the implications for human rights, such as forced migrations. They’ll do subjects that look at dispute resolution around climate debates and disputes. We’re going to see a lot more legal disputes.”
Other universities have climate and environment law electives, but not so many and through fewer years of the degree.