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Law School declares climate emergency

The University of Sydney Law School becomes the first Group of Eight law school to declare a climate emergency.

The University of Sydney Law School has voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency in a motion passed on Friday 6 December by the Board of the Law School. This is the first such declaration from a Group of Eight law school.

The motion was moved by Professor Rosemary Lyster, Professor of Climate and Environmental Law and Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law (ACCEL), and seconded by Professor Tim Stephens, a Professor of International Law and Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow.

The motion notes that “as legal academics we have a moral duty to stand up, speak out and express out concern from a justice perspective, for all of the people, ecosystems and species across the world facing an existential threat.”

Professor Stephens told Honi that the declaration affirms the relevance of the climate emergency to Sydney Law School’s core functions of research, teaching and community engagement.

The motion calls on all government and non-governmental entities around the world, including corporations to:

  1. “Rapidly phase out the use of fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy system;
  2. Safeguard the dignity, well-being and economic future of workers and communities in carbon intensive sectors; and
  3. Move swiftly to capture the economic opportunities and green jobs in a low carbon economy.”

However, the motion doesn’t specifically address USyd’s own complicity in the climate crisis. A freedom of information request by Fossil Free USyd this year found that the University still invests $22.4 million in fossil fuel companies.

USyd is also falling behind other Sydney universities in sourcing renewable energy. Last year UNSW announced it would be powered 100 per cent by renewable energy in 2020 and UTS signed a power-purchase agreement with a solar form in Walgett to ensure that at least 50% of its electricity demand would come from solar.

It remains to be seen whether other USyd faculties will follow the Law School’s lead in also declaring a climate emergency.

The declaration comes as Sydney faces record poor air quality levels due to harsh fires throughout NSW. Protestors will meet this afternoon to call for government action on climate change.