The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law develops legal techniques to fight climate change, trains law students and lawyers in their use, and provides the public with up-to-date resources on key topics in climate law and regulation.
We work closely with the scientists at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and with governmental, nongovernmental and academic organizations. Our activities are spearheaded by Michael Gerrard, Director of the Sabin Center and Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School, and Michael Burger, Executive Director of the Sabin Center.
Solving the climate change problem requires profound changes in the behavior of governments, corporations, nonprofit institutions and individuals around the world. A complex legal structure is needed to induce and manage these alterations. While environmental and energy law are at the center of this structure, many other areas of law will play important roles—corporate, securities, real estate, property, international trade, intellectual property, tax, human rights, contracts, criminal, and others.
Domestic legislation and international agreements are likely to leave many key questions to the implementation of new laws and regulations; working out these questions, solving the operational problems, and pushing through the needed behavioral changes—through legal compulsion, where necessary—will be a major global project throughout the decade of the 2010s and beyond.
An effective legal response to climate change will require the intensive attention of dedicated lawyers who understand the profound implications of what might seem like subtle differences in statutory or regulatory language, who understand the ways that the law can be applied to address this global threat, and who are not beholden to any corporation, industry, or other interest group or political constituency. The legal academy has the rare combination of expertise and independence to play an essential role here.
The core mission of the Sabin Center is to develop and promulgate legal techniques to address climate change, and to train the next generation of lawyers who will be leaders in the field. The Sabin Center is both a partner to and resource for public interest legal institutions engaged in climate change work. Further, the center addresses a critical need for the systematic development of legal techniques to fight climate change outside of the realm of judicial litigation, and the compilation and dissemination of information for lawyers in the public, private and NGO sectors.
Columbia Law School is specially situated to make fundamental contributions to the development of the legal structures needed to address climate change. As one of the world’s preeminent law schools, our faculty has unsurpassed depth in the many legal disciplines that must be harnessed to address the critical issue of climate change. This initiative benefits from great synergies with the school’s other centers and programs around Columbia University.