Centers Of Excellence

Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment

A leading environmental law program at the #1 public university, the Emmett Institute educates future leaders and develops solutions to the climate crisis and environmental justice challenges.

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Our Work at a Glance

We use our legal expertise, applied research, and unique educational opportunities to shape environmental law and climate policy at the local, national, and international levels.

The Emmett Institute is the central environmental law hub at UCLA. Since 2008, the Emmett Institute has grown to become one of the top environmental law programs in the country. Our faculty members are renowned for their public service, teaching excellence, and scholarship in state, federal, and international law. Located in Los Angeles, a diverse city facing unique environmental justice and climate change challenges, the Emmett Institute provides J.D., LL.M. and M.S. students unmatched opportunities for mentoring, career placement, and experiential learning. Through groundbreaking research, public interest initiatives, and impactful legal clinics, the Emmett Institute helps shape climate change and environmental law and policy in California, the United States, and jurisdictions around the world. Our alumni are environmental leaders across all sectors doing critical work at government agencies from Sacramento to Washington D.C. and beyond, as well as law firms, nonprofits, corporations, law schools and universities around the globe. Tapping this network, the Emmett Institute regularly convenes public and private events to drive real-world law and policy change.


Emmett Institute's 2023 Annual Report


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Projects

Knowledge Into Action

The Emmett Institute is home to 10 core faculty members as well as a team of law fellows and staff who manage a wide-ranging slate of projects that address urgent environmental challenges and provide hands-on training to future lawyers.

Our faculty and students draw on the resources of the country's premier public university to develop solutions to complex problems like climate overshoot, air quality, extreme heat, drought, coastal erosion, deforestation, and decreased biodiversity. Read more about all our projects.

Who We Are

Student Opportunities ​​​​​​

UCLA Law studentsUCLA Law offers J.D., LL.M., and M.S. students one of the country's most extensive environmental course offerings, covering a range of state, federal, and international law issues. The Emmett Institute provides students with scholarship funding, experiential learning, and connections to an unparalleled network of alumni in leadership positions across the country. Through one-on-one mentoring, our faculty helps students find meaningful internships and early-career positions in government, nonprofits, and private practice. The Emmett Institute also gives students unique opportunities to work at the forefront of climate and environmental advocacy in California and around the world. As part of our law clinic, students advocate on behalf of real clients. In our legislation clinic, students help make California law. Working with our staff, students also gain real-world skills for negotiations, public speaking, engaging with the press and utilizing storytelling tools as part of their advocacy.


  • Environmental Law Specialization

    The Environmental Law Specialization offers J.D. students a robust program of study with some of the country's top scholars in environmental law — who have also earned accolades for their teaching excellence. Our doctrinal environmental law courses cover an array of topics from energy law to environmental justice. 

    Students in the specialization can represent nonprofit advocacy groups and government agencies in the Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic, engage with elected officials and their staff through the California Environmental Legislation and Policy Clinic, enroll in several practical and simulation courses, and serve as interns with leading nonprofits and government agencies.

    Students in the specialization benefit from one-on-one faculty advising, with each student developing an individualized curriculum package. Students completing the specialization create a demonstrated record of study and experience in environmental law and prepare for careers with public-interest organizations, government agencies, and private law firms. Upon successful completion of the required courses, students are awarded a diploma notation at graduation.

  • Internships

    Second- and third-year students may gain valuable real-world experience by choosing to participate in UCLA Law’s externship program. UCLA’s environmental law internships include opportunities with government agencies like the California Attorney General's Office, and with non-profits, including Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice.

    Students can choose from full-time and part-time internships. Full-time interns spend an entire semester working for the agency or organization and receive full law school credit, while part-time interns split their time between classes and their internship and receive credit for each. Internships let students work with practicing environmental lawyers, develop skills, and gain insight into future job opportunities.

  • Career Advising

    Students interested in environmental law careers receive one-on-one advising with Emmett Institute faculty on career tracks, internships, and post-graduate employment. With support from the Emmett Institute, our students have been appointed to highly competitive clerkships and fellowships.

    The Emmett Institute fosters a community of prominent alumni in leadership roles at government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private practice. Our graduates practice law and serve their communities in California and across the country. Alumni frequently speak on campus, participate in Emmett Institute social events and career panels, and welcome engagement with current students. 

    Students pursuing environmental law careers also benefit from UCLA Law’s Office of Career Services and career advising through the Office of Public Interest Programs.

    Emmett Institute faculty are committed to providing resources for the environmental law community in California and across the country. Our faculty maintain a broad network of professionals in environmental law and policy. Several of our faculty members hold leadership positions in the California Lawyers Association's Environmental Law Section.  

  • Scholarships and Funding

    The Emmett Institute offers tuition scholarships for incoming students looking to devote their careers to climate change, environmental justice, and other environmental law issues. These scholarships include the Will Scholarship in Environmental Law, the Shirley Shapiro Scholarship in Environmental Law, and the Emmett Scholarship in Environmental Law.

    The Institute regularly supports public interest summer placements in environmental and climate law. We have provided financial support for student internships at non-profits such as Communities for a Better Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, and government agencies like the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, California Air Resources Board, and California Attorney General's Office, among others.

    UCLA Law students can receive funding for summer environmental work through the Public Interest Law Fund.

  • Curriculum

    Students interested in environmental law and policy can select from many courses led by Emmett Institute faculty celebrated for their teaching excellence. Visit the UCLA Law Curriculum Guide for a list of current environmental courses.

  • Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic

    Founded in 1994 as one of the first law school clinics in the country to focus on environmental issues, the Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic provides students opportunities to take on important environmental cases and projects while representing non-profit groups and other public interest clients. 

    Students have drafted successful petitions to enforce air monitoring near oil refineries; performed legal analysis to help LA County phase out oil and gas operations; and won awards from The Clinical Legal Education Association. Students have also successfully challenged the grant of a permit for coal mining on Native American lands in Arizona on behalf of Hopi tribal members; drafted petitions and comment letters urging changes in federal law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Center for Biological Diversity; and worked through the United Nations on behalf of small island states fighting for aggressive international climate change action. 

  • California Environmental Legislation & Policy Clinic

    The California Environmental Legislation & Policy Clinic provides a hands-on opportunity for UCLA Law students to engage with state senators and assembly members, legislative staffers, advocates, and stakeholders on cutting-edge environmental issues.  Student work has informed successful legislative efforts related to wildfire, groundwater, single-use plastics, and extreme heat. We have worked closely with elected officials including State Senator Ben Allen, Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, former Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon, State Senator Henry Stern, Assemblymember Lori Wilson, and U.S. Rep. (and then-State Senator) Sydney Kamlager-Dove.

  • Environmental Law Society

    The mission of UCLA's Environmental Law Society is to educate students about current issues in environmental law and policy, provide a space to facilitate conversations about environmental problem-solving, and foster a supportive community for students interested in addressing environmental issues.

    ELS plans speaking events featuring environmental law practitioners and professors, arranges an annual trip to the Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite, where UCLA Law typically has the largest student delegation. ELS coordinates student participation in inter-school environmental moot court and competitions like the California Lawyers Association's annual environmental law negotiations, hosted at UCLA Law every other year.

    ELS also organizes environmentally-focused activities for students, and works to green the law school.

  • UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy

    The UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy is one of the nation’s top environmental law journals, and has a staff of nearly 50 students. The journal publishes twice a year and accepts articles from leading environmental law scholars and practitioners, as well as UCLA student-written comments and book reviews.

Media, Events, and Resources

Speaker at an Emmett Institute syposium


Publications


Publications
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May 01, 2024

Analysis of the decision in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. County of Monterey et al. on local oil and gas phase out efforts

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Apr 22, 2024

Highly Charged: An Explainer on California’s Income-Graduated Fixed Charge Debate

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