Spotlight on Professor Jane Holder - Professor of Environmental Law at the Faculty of Laws
I am Professor of Environmental Law at the Faculty of Laws. I teach and research environmental justice, animal justice and EU law.
I am also chairing a newly formed group at UCL that is seeking to enhance the quantity and quality of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) at UCL.
We should be preparing all our students to tackle the global problems framed by the SDGs as they move forwards in their careers. Future generations will be relying on them.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
This is my 30th year at UCL – I started very young, teaching while still working on my PhD! I think I should get a certificate or something similar? I have had chances to move to other universities, but have opted to stay because of brilliant colleagues and brilliant students.
Tell us about something you’re working on at UCL that is supporting the SDGs
With colleagues, I am embarking on a major project (‘Digging for SDGs: Laying the Foundations for Sustainability in HE’) supported by UCL’s Grand Challenges Special Initiative. We are researching how UCL students implement SDGs as part of their education and everyday lives, focusing on key aspects of ‘living sustainability’ at UCL, such as student accommodation, food, museums and galleries, sport and, of course, learning in lecture theatres and laboratories etc.
This work forms a key part of my aim to help develop sustainability education at UCL and the HE sector more generally (working towards SDG4: Quality Education).
I am also helping to develop a legal clinic in partnership with a charity, the Environmental Law Foundation, specialising in helping local groups use the law to protect their local environments by challenging pollution and loss of green spaces (working towards SDG16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions).
Beyond work, which of your everyday activities contributes most to one or more of the SDGs?
I have re-sown my lawn with wildflowers/weeds. I compost everything and pile up branches and leaves in a corner of my garden, creating a good habitat for insects, birds, and lots of mice, but not yet hedgehogs. I suppose this comes closest to SDG11 (Sustainable Cities & Communities) and SDG15 (Life on Land) – albeit on a small scale.
And what do you do that has the most detrimental impact on the Goals?
I have two dogs who have quite a high carbon footprint, but they are part of my family, and they help us all (well me!) walk a lot.
In your opinion, which of the SDGs is the most important for humanity to address?
The SDGs are closely connected and impact on each other, in the main positively, but also negatively in some cases, so it’s hard to pull out one SDG as the most important. Having said that, I start from the position that biodiversity is a good foundation from which to tackle many of our environmental problems, including climate change, so I would highlight SDG14 (Life Below Water) and SDG15 (Life on Land).
If there was an 18th Goal, what should it be?
Animal Welfare – to further well-being of individual animals, whether wild or domesticated and aim for far less intensive animal livestock farming. Arguably, this already underlies many of the existing SDGs, but a specific goal would be an important and clear push in the right direction.
If you could bring in one law or societal shift to help the UK address the SDGs, what would it be?
Just one? I would enact the Climate and Ecology Bill (formerly Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill), a private members’ bill introduced by Caroline Lucas MP, and developed by an alliance of environmental groups, originating in work by Extinction Rebellion. This connects climate change with the problem of loss of biodiversity and advances ‘natural solutions’ to reduce greenhouse gases. It is a far-reaching, integrated, and practical piece of (sadly, still) draft legislation.
What is the biggest challenge to the world achieving the Goals by 2030?
War. I find it hard to see beyond this at present.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I would love to be accepted onto ‘Bake Off’ as the first participant cooking only vegan cakes etc, appealing to both my sense of domesticity and competitive spirit.