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Climate Law & Human Rights

September 15, 2023

Sheridan Macy L'24
Sheridan Macy L’24

Sheridan Macy L’24 shares her experience working at the intersections of environmental law and human rights.

This summer, I had the opportunity to work as a legal intern at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) which has offices in Washington, D.C., and Geneva, Switzerland. I took on projects in each of CIEL’s four primary program areas—climate and energy; fossil economy; environmental health; and people, land, and resources—and collaborated with attorneys working on these issues domestically and internationally.

Building Domestic and International Expertise

The breadth of CIEL’s work across two offices also helped me further explore how many different areas of the law intersect with environmental issues. One of my projects involved examining the legal frameworks surrounding carbon capture projects in the United States, Norway, and Australia. This work deepened my knowledge of domestic and international regulatory matters.

I also researched export development and environmental risk management policies in Canada, oil pipeline regulation in Canada and the United States, domestic U.S. critical minerals policy, and indigenous land rights in Canada and Panama. While I had previously known a little bit about some of these areas, my work allowed me to dive deeper into these areas of the law and to explore comparative law and policy. I especially enjoyed the latter as this was a focal point of my undergraduate studies.

I also appreciated having taken “EU Law” with R. Daniel Kelemen, Lecturer in Law, during my 2L spring semester. The overlapping regulatory schemes of the EU and its affiliates would otherwise have been much more difficult to understand. I was also able to leverage my Spanish language skills while researching indigenous land rights Panama and to practice my incredibly rusty French to conduct research on carbon trade markets in Africa.

Forging a Career Dedicated to Climate and Human Rights Law

I have always been interested in the environment and was once dead set on becoming a conservation biologist. However, I shifted to international human rights in college after classes on international relations and national security introduced me to the topic.

Law school courses like “International Human Rights” with Professor of Law William Burke-White have helped me to reconnect with my interest in environmental issues and explore them in new contexts. For example, I have been able to connect issues of biodiversity to human rights as climate change-driven extinction is already threatening the ecosystems on which humanity depends. The agricultural crises caused by climate change, especially disease in key crops, infringe on the fundamental human right to food and implicate additional concerns of safety during migration and refugee rights.

Working at CIEL allowed me to see what the intersection of these issues looks like in practice. This experience reinforced my decision to focus my legal career on climate and human rights law. I am especially interested in climate change, biodiversity, agriculture and their impact on human rights and migration. I am excited to continue developing my skills and knowledge within this specific legal and policy niche, and I hope to continue doing similarly meaningful work in the future.

Pathways to the Profession highlights Penn Carey Law students and post-graduate fellows as they launch impactful legal careers. From summer internships in the private sector to public interest post-graduate fellowships, these firsthand accounts of substantive legal work demonstrate the myriad opportunities available to Penn Carey Law students and graduates as they hone their skills and advance their career goals.

Sheridan Macy L’24 is a 3L from Omaha, Nebraska, interested in pursuing a legal career at the intersection of human rights and climate law.

Explore more of our students’ Pathways to the Profession.