Jobs at the Sabin Center

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Cities Climate Law Initiative – Fellow

The Sabin Center seeks a full-time fellow to take on a leadership role in the Cities Climate Law Initiative. The position will work with the Center’s Executive Director to provide thought leadership, applied research, peer learning, and other outputs that will assist cities in achieving their climate mitigation commitments, whether framed in relation to emission reductions, deep decarbonization, carbon neutrality, renewable energy goals, or otherwise. Successful performance will require generating original research and communicating research findings clearly and through a variety of media and formats to a range of audiences in a manner that maximizes impact, as well as contributing to the University’s wider research and convening efforts.

Main Responsibilities:

Collaborating with Initiative partners, the fellow will:

  • conduct sophisticated and in-depth research into potential legal solutions to achieve cities’ climate ambitions;
  • publish supporting analyses and resources in academic and practitioner-oriented publications, as well as through a new web portal hosted by the Sabin Center;
  • conduct research-related outreach and communicate research findings to city attorneys and sustainability directors as well as relevant professional networks and associations;
  • leverage research to inform cities’ engagement in state and federal rulemaking and litigation; and
  • convene workshops and webinars to communicate research and enhance peer learning and network development.

Requirements and Conditions:

• J.D., or equivalent, and at least 2 years of professional legal experience in a clerkship or with a government agency, NGO, law firm, or law school center or clinic.
• Experience in climate change, environmental, energy, and/or land use law and policy.
• This is a two-year position, with the possibility of renewal contingent on funding.
• The position is located in New York City. Expected start date: September 2019.

To Apply: Submit a cover letter and c.v. to michael.burger@law.columbia.edu. Applications are due July 15, 2019.

About the Cities Climate Initiative:

Improving cities’ ability to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions is essential to addressing climate change, both globally and within individual countries, including the United States. Doing so in a way that enhances cities’ resilience to climate impacts and promotes social equity, access to energy, and sustainable development is equally vital. Cities’ leadership in finding innovative solutions to climate change is well established, and a wide range of policy tools is available. Moreover, cities are constantly searching for and undertaking new approaches to achieve their climate commitments. These various approaches involve tricky legal questions, and require the production of legal documents. As cities pursue ambitious climate action there is an increasing demand for legal know-how, legal resources, peer learning, and coordination that can maximize the impact and visibility of cities’ leadership. The purpose of the Cities Climate Law Initiative is to provide urban sustainability and climate change offices and the local legal departments that represent them with access to independent resources and expertise relevant to particular matters, as well as foundational research, technical capacity-building, network development and information sharing, in order to reduce overall GHG emissions and mitigate climate change.


LPDD Staff Researcher (part-time)

The Sabin Center seeks a part-time staff researcher to assist with the Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization project. The staff researcher will have primary responsibility for the development and management of a new website that will make critical legal resources available for governments and corporations committed to achieving dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. The researcher will conduct independent research, and work with a team including faculty and staff at the Sabin Center as well as outside lawyers and academics, to compile, categorize, and disseminate a variety of legal documents, including pre-existing online resources such as legislation, regulations, and secondary materials, as well as model ordinances, model contracts, and other materials that are being created by other participants in this project. The researcher may also be asked to perform similar work on associated web sites being developed concerning renewable energy, carbon dioxide removal, and state action on climate change.

Requirements and Conditions:
• Experience with or training in climate change, environmental, energy, and/or land use law and policy required.
• Facility with on-line research required.
• J.D. preferred; outstanding candidates with masters degrees or significant experience in a relevant field will be considered.
• The work can be performed remotely within the U.S.; a New York City location is not required, but the researcher will be expected to make occasional visits to the Sabin Center.
• Approximately 18 hours/week. Hours are flexible.
• Salary commensurate with experience.
• This is a one-year position, with the possibility of renewal contingent on funding.

About the Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization project:

In 2014, as part of an international effort led by several NGOs, a technical report entitled “Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States” was published. It set forth the technical means by which the United States could transition away from fossil fuels through “deep decarbonization” – achieving economy-wide greenhouse gas emission reductions of 80% from1990 levels by 2050, and ultimately to net zero emissions by 2100. The three pillars of this approach are an aggressive program of energy efficiency; decarbonization of the electricity supply, chiefly through renewables; and electrification of fossil fuel uses, led by vehicles and space heating and cooling. While these three pillars provide a direction for U.S. decarbonization, a major missing piece was a description and analysis of the legal changes needed to make that happen. Thus in early 2016 Professors Michael Gerrard and John Dernbach launched the Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization (LPDD) project. Its purpose is to identify how federal, state and local laws need to change in order for the U.S. to be on the deep decarbonization pathways. They assembled a team of 54 legal scholars and practitioners to examine each of the measures contained in the 2014 technical report (plus several other measures that were not included in the report) and analyze the underlying legal issues. The result is Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, published by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) in March 2019. The book includes more than 1,000 recommendations for Congress, federal agencies, state legislatures, state agencies, local governments, and corporations and other private actors. The LPDD team is now working with law firms, independent lawyers, and law school clinics on a pro bono basis to develop the model laws, regulations and transactional forms. The staff researcher will be responsible for ensuring this work and other associated resources are made available to the public through a new website.

To apply: Please submit a cover letter and CV to: sabinstaffresearcher@law.columbia.edu 

Job open until position filled.


Fellowship in Climate Change Law

The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law seeks Climate Law Fellows for a two-year appointment. Under the supervision of Michael Gerrard, Faculty Director and Michael Burger, Executive Director, the fellow will conduct independent research, literature reviews, and benchmarking studies on a wide variety of issues related to Climate Change Law, as well as develop and implement advocacy strategies. Fellows work on a wide variety of research and writing projects concerning climate change mitigation and adaptation; contribute to advocacy-oriented programs and projects; help organize conferences, seminars, and collaborative publications; contribute to conceptualization, management and implementation of the Center’s web resources; and assist with oversight of interns and volunteers, among other projects.

Minimum Qualifications:

Each fellow is employed as either a Postdoctoral Research Scholar or an Associate Research Scholar at Columbia Law School. In both instances the minimum degree requirement is a JD, JD equivalent, or LLM within three years of beginning the fellowship. A candidate will be eligible for an appointment as Associate Research Scholar only if they have already completed a fellowship or postdoctoral training following their law degree. Strong academic qualifications and a background in environmental, natural resources or energy law and policy will be expected.

How to Apply:

Applications for 2019 Climate Law Fellowship program have now closed. Please check back for updates on the 2020 program.


Sabin Center Visiting Scholars Initiative

In order to recognize and enhance work in the field of climate law the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School has established an initiative to sponsor Visiting Scholars on a regular basis. The initiative is open to faculty members from other law schools and related university departments, independent legal researchers, and other professionals working in the fields of climate change law and regulation. We expect the typical case involves a law professor on sabbatical for a semester or a practitioner or government official seeking the opportunity to concentrate on developing an innovative concept or approach to climate change.

During their visit, Visiting Scholars will participate in the life of the Center, presenting on their research efforts and attending relevant events. We also ask that Visiting Scholars commit to producing climate law-relevant work for the Center during their visit. The specific projects should be discussed with Center faculty and staff during the application and review process. The Scholars will be offered a desk in the Sabin Center with a computer and telephone privileges, along with a modest travel stipend. The Center can only accommodate one Visiting Scholar at a time.

Application Process:

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis through a two-part process. Prospective visitors are first asked to submit a full curriculum vitae and a one-page summary of a research proposal or topic, including why Center sponsorship would be helpful or relevant, to mburger@law.columbia.edu. Successful candidates will then be asked to apply separately to Columbia Law School’s Visiting Scholars program. That program’s usual fees will be waived.

Additional Requirements/Steps for Foreign Nationals:

The Visiting Scholar designation is dependent upon individuals securing a J-1 visa. Upon submission of all the documentation required by the United States government, the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) will issue the DS-2019 form needed to support the J-1 application.

This program is generously supported by the David Sive Memorial Fund.