Book your place

27 June-1 July 2023: UKELA Conference 2023: Environmental law matters


Back in person for the first time in four years, UKELA conference 2023 arrives at a time when environmental law has never been more prominent, or more important.  From corporate reporting in the boardroom to environmental defenders in the criminal courts to holding governments to account, environmental law matters, and our conference explores the myriad ways in which UK environmental law is being developed, tested, scrutinised, used, abused and ignored. Throughout our two days together at the University of Reading, we will cover many of the multiple faces of environmental law, but the thread that runs through the conference is this: how is environmental law addressing the big environmental issues facing society, and how do we, UKELA members active in environmental law, use this knowledge in our own professions.

Join us for a mix of online and in person sessions throughout the week. We are delighted to be at the University of Reading, on their Whiteknights campus, which is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland. The campus has won 11 consecutive Green Flag awards, recognising it as one of Britain’s top green spaces. Famous for the climate stripes, created by Prof Ed Hawkins at the university in 2018, which show how the planet is heating, stripe by stripe, in one striking image, Reading University is surely the perfect place for UKELA members to meet and debate once again.


Day 1 Tuesday 27th June – online


Working Party sessions
  • 9am - Water
  • 12pm - Climate Change and Energy / Nature Conservation combined session: Will nature-based solutions solve the climate and biodiversity crises or will they cause double trouble?
  • 5pm - Wales


Evening - Film club: “SEVERN - The Poisoning of Britain’s Amazon”. Environment Agency whistleblowers, experts and people who live by and work with the river give their testimonials to how the river has been allowed to deteriorate and the dire consequences for people and wildlife, followed by panel discussion.

Day 2 Wednesday 28th June – online


Working Party sessions
  • 9am - tbc
  • 12pm - Environmental Litigation: Is there a Human Right to Healthy Water – Potential Liability for Persistent Water Polluters in Human Rights Law
  • 2.30pm - tbc
  • 5pm - Noise


Thursday 29th June – no formal activity 

Delegates have the option to arrive at the venue on Thursday evening, see booking form.

Day 3 Friday 30th June – in person 

Breakfast 7.30am-9am for those who stayed Thursday evening

9.30am-11am Registration with tea/coffee, networking with sponsors 

11am Introduction from Simon Tilling, Legal Manager – Environmental, Pennon Group, Conference Chair and Gareth de Graaff, Executive Director UKELA

11.15am PLENARY 1 

Law in an era of environmental crises: What’s the role of professionals?

As a nation, and as a world, we are in the midst of a climate and biodiversity emergency. How, if at all, does the urgency of this situation affect our role as practitioners? Is there now a duty for “climate conscious lawyering” (and what does that really mean)? Do any existing ethical duties – whether for lawyers or other professionals - need to adapt? Join Farhana Yamin, Professor Steven Vaughan, Estelle Dehon KC and Professor Tom Oliver for an insightful debate on these very pressing issues.

Chair: Prof Steven Vaughan, Vice-Dean (Strategy) & Professor of Law and Professional Ethics, University College London

Estelle Dehon KC, UKELA trustee and barrister at Cornerstone Barristers 
Prof Tom Oliver, Professor of Applied Ecology, University of Reading
Farhana Yamin, environmental lawyer, climate change and development policy expert

12.45pm Speaker’s Corner – Andrew Lees essay prize winner

1pm AGM

1.15pm Lunch and networking with sponsors

2.15pm PLENARY 2

Chemical regulation – an opportunity to develop your practice in the face of a changing landscape

An expert panel of representatives have been brought together from industry, trade association, legal sector and government in this session for a lively debate on the issues affecting the chemical sector from a regulatory perspective, e.g. REACH / UK REACH, and what environmental lawyers and consultants need to consider in terms of adapting their practice to meet the needs of both industry and regulation. This panel will provide an opportunity to hear varying perspectives on this everchanging subject along with the chance for questions from the audience to our expert panellists. 

Chair: Simon Tilling, Legal Manager – Environmental, Pennon Group


  • Darren Abrahams, Partner, Steptoe & Johnson
  • Nishma Patel, Policy Director, Chemical Industries Association
  • Neil Hollis, Regulatory Affairs Manager, BASF

3.45pm Case law update 

4pm Keynote address - Mike Berners-Lee consults, thinks, writes and researches on sustainability and responses to 21st century problems. Author of acclaimed books including: There is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years and How Bad Are Bananas? The carbon footprint of everything, Mike is a professor at Lancaster University, where his research includes supply chain carbon modelling, sustainable food systems and the environmental impact of ICT.

4.30pm Break, networking with sponsors

5pm PLENARY 3 

Corporate diligence and reporting: will the markets save the environment?  

ESG reporting is important for transparency, but what does good ESG reporting look like? The panel will discuss the challenges faced by businesses, consumers and regulators alike, including the knowledge gap, data collection barriers and greenwashing. The largely voluntary nature of ESG reporting is becoming increasingly mandatory with the advent of regulations including the EU Taxonomy, SFDR, CSRD, SDR and the UK Taxonomy. Will this ensure better sustainability outcomes?

Chair: Anne Johnstone, Head of ESG, Northtree Investment Management Ltd.


  • Melissa Darby, Sustainability Corporate Counsel for Cummins
  • Rebecca Kowalski FPFS, Sustainable Finance specialist, Overstory Finance
  • George Richards, Partner KPMG


6.30pm Close and time for delegates to check into rooms

7.30pm until late buffet dinner and networking in Meadow Suite

Day 4 Saturday 1st July – in person


7am - 8.30am Breakfast and checkout

8.45am PLENARY 4 

Nature-based solutions – threats and opportunities

The importance of ecosystem services, nature-based solutions and ‘natural capital’ are becoming widely recognised for the role that they play in enhancing resilience of ecosystems and societies that depend on them, in supporting adaptation to climate hazards, and in delivering significant biodiversity benefits.  Recent international agreements have drawn heavily on nature-based solutions in seeking an approach both to the climate and nature emergencies.  Nature-based solutions are already front and centre of the UK’s environmental policy as a means of addressing and mitigating impacts from development.   In addition, the marine environment is being increasingly recognised for the many ecosystem services that it provides.  Our expert panel will provide an international, national, marine and practical focus to this rapidly evolving and innovative area of environmental work. 

Chair: invited


  • Patricia Kameri-Mbote , Director of the Law Division, of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Dr Sam Sinclair,  Director, Biodiversify
  • invited


10.15am Case law update

10.35am Break, networking with sponsors


11.10am The North American perspective: hot topics in environmental law in the US and Canada

Jonathan will provide his perspective on the emerging issues and key developments within environmental law in the US and Canada. In particular, he will pick out two key themes. Firstly, the role that ESG is playing in shaping the environmental agenda in North America, including the adoption of ESG reporting and metrics by North American businesses, the role of regulators, and the rising anti-ESG movement. Secondly, the rise of environmental justice in law and policy, and Jonathan will highlight some of the trends and developments in the US and Canada.

Speaker: Jonathan Kahn, Chair of the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy and Resources (ABA SEER) and Partner at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, Toronto, Canada


11.30am PLENARY 5 

Environmental governance in a changing political landscape

Chair – Prof Colin Reid, Professor of Law, Dundee University

Speakers from each governance body (Office for Environmental Protection, Environmental Standards Scotland and Interim Environmental Protection Assessor for Wales). Academic speaker invited addressing the critical questions/issues facing environmental governance at present. Followed by panel discussion.


  • Mark Roberts (ESS)
  • Natalie Prosser (OEP, CEO)
  • Dr Nerys Llewelyn Jones (Interim Assessor)
  • Viviane Gravey, Senior Lecturer in European Politics, Queen's University Belfast


1pm Closing address 

1.15pm Farewell and thanks – Ned Westaway, Chair, UKELA 

1.30pm – Close (lunch available)


Book your place