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Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law

Research and teaching in climate and environmental law

Discover one of Australia’s leading centres for environmental law and climate change expertise.

The Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law is world renowned for interdisciplinary research, education and public engagement in these areas of law.

Our researchers have outstanding international and domestic reputations, as well as strong connections with eminent scholars at international institutions. The centre also has enduring links with leading members of the legal profession, including the judiciary, who contribute to the teaching and seminar programs and, at times, research activities.

Our experts

Rosemary Lyster

Professor Rosemary Lyster,
Co-Director, Leader of the discipline

Visit Professor Lyster's academic profile.

Ed Couzens

Associate Professor Ed Couzens, Co-Director

Visit Associate Professor Couzens' academic profile.

Kate Owens

Dr Kate Owens, Deputy Director

Visit Dr Kate Owens' academic profile.

Tim Stephens

Professor Tim Stephens, Member

Visit Professor Tim Stephens' academic profile.

Nicole Graham

Associate Professor Nicole Graham, Member

Visit Associate Professor Nicole Graham's academic profile.

Each year, the centre hosts an array of eminent international scholars who teach, present seminar/conference papers and undertake research in the area of climate and environmental law. The centre also conducts and sponsors international and domestic conferences, seminars, workshops, lectures and other similar activities.

Members of the centre have established wide networks of relationships with researchers around the world, including within Columbia Law School, Berkeley Law School, Tilburg Law School, Maastricht Law School, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, University of Hawaii at Manoa and the National University of Singapore.

The centre attracts and supervises to completion high-quality postgraduate students, and develops innovative units of study in both undergraduate and postgraduate programs.

Sydney Law School affiliates

Sessional lecturers

A key aspect of the centre’s governance structure is the Advisory Board, which comprises members appointed by the Dean on the advice of the Executive Committee. The Advisory Board consists of individuals with a strong interest in environmental law, including judges, practitioners, scholars, representatives of industry and members of the wider community who have made an important contribution to the field, both in Australia and overseas. The Chair of the Advisory Board is the centre director. The board meets at least once every year in order to advise the co-directors and Sydney Law School on all aspects of the activities of the centre.

The Advisory Board currently comprises the following members:

Financial responsibility

Financial responsibility for the centre’s activities is vested in the Dean. The centre’s funds are held in an account maintained by Sydney Law School. The Dean exercises financial responsibility by approving budgets for the centre, prepared by the Director in consultation with the Executive Committee, and by exercising broad oversight of budgetary performance. Day-to-day administration of finances is entrusted to the co-directors in consultation with the Executive Committee.

The Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law (ACCEL) is committed to supporting the next generation of environmental law scholars and practitioners. Our Internship Program provides opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students to gain work experience in environmental law research and policy. Interns participate in a broad range of ACCEL’S activities related to environmental and climate law and justice, and work closely with the Centre’s academic staff members on real-world projects.


  • Current enrolled undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Sydney are eligible to apply.
  • Applications for the 2021 Winter Program will open 7 April 2021 and close 12 May 2021. 
  • Refer to the ACCEL Internships in Canvas for more information and how to apply.
  • Please send queries about the 2021 Winter program to:


Climate change and water governance in an era of hi-tech irrigation

Wednesday 19 - Thursday 20 February 2020

This two-day invitation-only workshop, jointly sponsored by the Sydney Environment Institute, the Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law, and the Environmental Defenders Office, will bring together international and domestic experts from a range of disciplines to discuss the implications of irrigation efficiency measures in the context of water scarcity and climate change, the key challenges posed by irrigation efficiency for water governance, climate adaptation and sustainability, and best practices in terms of governance responses. The workshop will provide an important opportunity to discuss the governance frameworks required to balance growing consumptive needs, the need to protect associated ecosystems, improved irrigation technologies and our finite and often overallocated water resources.

The Bushfire Disaster and Australia’s Biodiversity: Can It Recover?

On Tuesday, 4 February 2020 ACCEL coordinated, in partnership with the Sydney Environment Institute, an interdisciplinary panel of experts to discuss how the bushfires disaster has had a devastating impact on people, property, communities and Australia’s biodiversity and ecosystems. A conservative estimate is that we have lost 1.25 billion animals and we have witnessed the terrible suffering of those burnt in the fires. The panel addressed the scale of the bushfires disaster and the impact on our biodiversity and prospects for recovery.

Speaker presentations:

Extinction Rebellion: why and what does law have to do with it?

ACCEL Environmental Law Series in conjunction with the Sydney Environment Institute presented ‘Extinction Rebellion: why and what does law have to do with it?’ on 25 September 2019. Professor Rosemary Lyster chaired the event which examined Extinction Rebellion (XR), a socio-political movement which is using civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to protest against the climate emergency, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse. Three keynote speakers then addressed different perspectives toward ‘XR’: Associate Professor Nicole Graham, Unviersity of Sydney spoke on 'Biodiversity on Private Agricultural Land in NSW - the artificial cleave between private property and environmental regulation'; Dr Astrida Neimanis, Unviersity of Sydney spoke on 'Things We Forget in an Emergency: A Feminist Decolonial Perspective', and Dr Piero Moraro, Charles Sturt University spoke on 'Disobey or disappear' in relation to conceptions of civil disobedience.

Find out more information about the event and speakers.

Power Blackouts and Climate Justice

On 7 August 2019, Professor Rosemary Lyster chaired the 2019 ACCEL Distinguished Speakers' Address: Power Blackouts and Climate Justice. Professor Dan Farber, University of California Berkeley and Professor Robert Verchick, Loyola University discussed cases including Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey and Irma, as well as the Queensland floods and Victorian bushfires. They argued that the power sector in all parts of the world needs to become smarter and more resilient, even as it struggles to cut carbon emissions, while acknowledging finding the way forward is difficult.

Professors Lyster, Farber and Verchick and Associate Professor Gregor Verbic, The University of Sydney, have recently been awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant (2019-2021), entitled A legal framework for resilient electricity infrastructure in Australia; a workshop with stakeholders in the power sector has been conducted, and will inform the research.  

Disaster in the Murray-Darling Basin: explanations and consequences

On Thursday 9 May ACCEL and the Sydney Environment Institute hosted an event entitled, 'Disaster in the Murray-Darling Basin: explanations and consequences'. Our speakers were Professor Richard Kingsford from UNSW, Dr Emma Carmody, EDO NSW (whose investigations resulted in the Four Corners 'Pumped' documentary about water theft in the Basin leading to criminal prosecutions), and Professor Sarah Wheeler, a water economist from the University of Adelaide. The forum examined the origins of the challenges and the state of the rivers, the legal frameworks and socio-economic ramifications.

Listen to the podcast.

The event was also broadcast unedited and in full on Sky News Extra Ch 604 three times on Friday, 10 May at 1.30 pm, 6.17 pm and 9.55 pm. We are pleased that these broadcasts will reach a broader audience and enhance the impact of the Murray-Darling disaster.

Dr Jo Brady

Administration Assistant
  • Law School Building (F10) Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus, The University of Sydney NSW 2006 AUSTRALIA

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