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Strengthening climate action at Cambridge

Hughes Hall established as global centre of excellence in climate law.

We are delighted to confirm the appointment of Professor Harro van Asselt, the first Cambridge Professor of Climate Law. The new post includes a Fellowship with Hughes Hall, the Hatton Fellowship of Climate Law, sustaining our leadership in climate law especially through close collaboration with our Centre for Climate Engagement (CCE) and Chapter Zero.

The Hatton Professorship of Climate Law is based in the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge, with funds for the position generously given by the Hatton Trust. Professor van Asselt joins the leadership of our Centre for Climate Engagement and will support us in bringing urgent legal research in climate law, policy and governance to corporate boards.

Professor van Asselt will develop expertise in domestic climate law as well as international climate law. He brings vast expertise on European and international climate change law and policy, including the review of implementation and compliance, the use of market-based mechanisms, climate-trade policy interactions, and the role of non-state actors. One of his key objectives will be to build capacity in domestic climate law across the different legal sub-specialties.

Sir Laurie Bristow, President, Hughes Hall, said: “This is a significant advance in a critical subject, building collaborations between the Department of Land Economy, the Law Faculty, Cambridge Zero and Hughes Hall’s Centre for Climate Engagement, Climate Governance Initiative, and Chapter Zero.”

“I am delighted to welcome to Hughes Hall, and the University, a leading thinker and teacher in this highly important discipline. Hughes Hall has a strong tradition of addressing the most pressing issues of our time. Professor van Asselt’s appointment will strengthen our ability to make a real difference to countering climate change through our research and education, and through the work of our Centre for Climate Engagement.”

The first Professor of Climate Law will join a team at the forefront of Cambridge – and global – efforts on climate change, with a critical focus on climate law.

Professor van Asselt, who takes up the Fellowship in September 2023, said: “I am truly excited to be joining Hughes Hall, and relish the opportunity to work with the most relevant and progressive of the world’s climate thinkers and doers to craft an effective and just legal response to the climate crisis. I look forward to playing my part in the continuing and impactful story of this renowned university, and this internationally regarded College.”

Emily Farnworth, Fellow and Director of Hughes Hall Centre for Climate Engagement, will work closely with Professor van Asselt and welcomed this transformational appointment: “Climate-leaders at Hughes Hall, and the university, are generating tangible solutions to the climate crisis. In doing so, we cast our ‘expert’ net wide and deep. Only new, interdisciplinary collaborations like this new role will have the resources and networks at their disposal to find solutions that resonate widely enough to change the world. Which is what we must do.”

Harro van Asselt is currently Professor of Climate Law and Policy at the University of Eastern Finland Law School, a Visiting Researcher at Utrecht University’s Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, and an Affiliated Researcher with the Stockholm Environment Institute. Previously, he worked at the University of Oxford and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He is also the editor of the Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law (RECIEL). He holds a PhD (with distinction) from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Like Hughes Hall, the Department of Land Economy is at the forefront of Cambridge efforts on climate change. The new Professor will join a team that includes the University’s Professor of Climate Policy and its Professors of Law and Environmental Policy and of Economics and Environmental Policy. The post will increase teaching and learning opportunities for Climate Law and will link with Cambridge Zero, an initiative that brings together the University’s research and policy expertise to develop solutions for our lives, our society and our economy.

Further information

The Centre for Climate Engagement at Hughes Hall was established in 2019 to rectify the lack of engagement in climate change mitigation in the corporate community, particularly boards. The Centre plays a unique role in bringing leading academic research to a targeted non-executive director audience in a format that enables change. Support for cutting edge research in climate law, governance, disclosure and organisational change – priority areas for boards driving climate action – informs the work of the Centre. Its leading research translation and knowledge brokering expertise turns that evidence into action.

The Centre provides the Secretariat function for the Climate Governance Initiative. The World Economic Forum established this Initiative in 2019, in response to climate change and the challenge this brings to business, together with a set of guiding principles to help boards and senior management consider the quality of climate governance at the organisations they oversee and identify aspects in need of development.  The Climate Governance Initiative is now implemented by the Centre for Climate Engagement, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. 

The Climate Governance Initiative supports the growth of groups of board directors around the world to form networks, known as Chapters.  There are now 23 such Chapters, including Chapter Zero in the UK. The Secretariat plays a significant role in both maximising the impact and collaboration of existing chapters and accelerating the development of new ones.