Guild Law Doctoral Workshop: Unlocking Legal Perspectives for Sustainable Development


The Guild’s doctoral workshop on legal perspectives for sustainable development was a significant event, bringing together over 20 doctoral students and experienced academics from its member universities all over Europe. Held from February 24th to 26th at the University of Vienna, the workshop provided an engaging platform for doctoral students to explore various legal challenges and opportunities in the field of sustainable development.

by Chiara Schartmüller

Under the guidance of Dean Brigitta Zöchling-Jud and Vice Dean Franz-Stefan Meissel, the event kicked off with insightful sessions chaired by Assistant Professor Maša Kovič Dine. Karen Tora Hjelmervik Nerbø from the University of Oslo explored Environmental Impact Assessments in Norway, while her peer, Heidi Sydnes Egeland, critically evaluated the polluter pays principle within EU Climate Mitigation Law. Toshio Hase from the University of Ghent delved into the environmental legalities of radioactive water discharge from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and Nejc Urankar from the University of Ljubljana wrapped up this panel with his presentation on the evaluation of the EU’s Sustainable Business Law Framework.

A subsequent session, moderated by Professor Federico Casolari from the University of Bologna, focused on economic practices and environmental governance. The first presentation, given by Sevim Sena Taskaya from the University of Groningen, provided valuable insight into the world of sustainable development in the ocean, focusing on the new legal regime for ocean governance, called UNCLOS. Following this presentation, Harsh Vardhan Bhati from the University of Uppsala drew a link between energy practices and world heritage. Further, Dorien Bakker, a doctoral student at the University of Groningen, addressed community benefits in energy transitions. The session concluded with a presentation by Elsabé Boshoff from the University of Oslo, who discussed the innovative idea of a community right to sustainable development. 

After an enlightening Thursday evening at Stuwer Restaurant in Vienna, the second day of the workshop started with a session chaired by Assistant Professor Lolke Braaksma from the University of Groningen which expanded the dialogue to EU consumer law, access to justice and ESG damages in banking. Katarzyna Wiśniewska, a doctoral student at Jagiellonian University, opened the session by presenting ideas on how EU consumer law can achieve a shift towards sustainable consumption while balancing this objective with consumer rights. Next, Francesco Pipicella from Uppsala University explored the role of multinational corporations in justice accessibility in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Finally, Niels Rogge from Ghent University examined the liability of a bank for ESG damage caused by its borrower – a unique perspective.

The next session, chaired by Assistant Professor Stephanie Nitsch from the University of Vienna, examined legal financing for environmental sustainability, labour law and artificial intelligence’s implications. First, Chiara Schartmüller, a doctoral student at the University of Vienna, spoke on European tax incentives for environmental sustainability and climate crisis financing. Ruben Silva Kas from Radboud University then provided remarkable reflections on the breach of the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation and its consequences from a private law perspective. The session concluded with Łukasz Łaguna from Jagiellonian University, who explored the relationship between sustainability, labour law and the hot topic of artificial intelligence. 

After an enjoyable lunch break, the final part of the workshop commenced with a session moderated by Professor Stephan Wittich of the University of Vienna, which highlighted the role of criminal law in the context of environmental sustainability. The panel started with Jernej Renko, a doctoral student at the University of Ljubljana who tackled the liability of autonomous systems, which play a major role in our daily lives. Sophie van Dongen from the Radboud University pondered environmental harm’s place in international criminal law. Shivam Kataria from the University of Warwick presented his research objectives in relation to the criminal trial in India, focusing on the importance of participation in this context. 

The doctoral workshop concluded with a session led by Professor Ursula Kriebaum from the University of Vienna. During this panel presentation, Andreea-Carla Loghin from Babeș-Bolyai University first discussed Romanian judges’ role in environmental policy. Next, Christine Muhonja Olando from the University of Warwick examined the role of education in achieving sustainable development from a human rights perspective. Lastly, Adnan Tokić from the University of Vienna rounded off the session with a comparison of the approach of competition law to sustainability.

These presentations and discussions not only provided new insights and perspectives, but also underlined the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to legal challenges in sustainable development. It fostered a collaborative atmosphere among doctoral students and academics, strengthening their networks and refining their research presentation skills. Ultimately, the workshop highlighted the Guild’s commitment to advancing legal research, paving the way for future academic collaborations and innovative solutions in crucial areas.  

Dean of Law gives welcome remarks
Participant smiling during coffee break
Audience listening to presentations
Guild Law panel discussion
Panelist takes questions
Presenter at the podium
Guild Law speaker
Audience member asking questions
Guild Law Workshop group photo