History and development of the CMER

The CMER was established in 1982 by Professor Hubert Bocken (who has a PhD on tort law as instrument to enforce the restoration of environmental damage).  Professor Bocken  is one of the pioneers of environmental law in Belgium, with focus on research and education . He introduced  environmental law  as a course in the law curriculum of the Faculty. He was the 1991 laureate of the  Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy. For decades he and Professor Luc Lavrysen were the driving forces of the CMER.  In that period a lot of ground-breaking policy-oriented research was undertaken, mainly supported by the Flemish government. The CMER hosted the Interuniversity Commission for the Revision of Environmental Law in the Flemish Region (1989-1995)(with Professor Hubert Bocken as its president). That Commission drafted a complete new environmental protection act for Flanders, which was published in 1995 and further developed the following years. The CMER also hosted a major database on environmental  case law, which was for years the only way to get access to unpublished environmental case law. Fundamental research took place  in PhDs on the development of international, European, Belgian and Flemish environmental law (Luc Lavrysen, 1997), and the legal instruments for nature and landscape conservation (Geert Van Hoorick, 1999). From 1998 on the Faculty also hosted an Advanced  Master in Environmental Law, consisting of various environmental law courses and some non-legal environmental courses. It existed for approximately ten years and educated a lot of environmental experts that  are currently working as magistrates, civil servants or lawyers. Despite its success Ghent University has abolished it together with a lot of other advanced master programs. Luckily a lot of the environmental law courses are now included in the curriculum of the Master of Laws at Ghent University.

Meanwhile the CMER was joined by Professor Geert Van Hoorick, who is an expert in nature conservation and wildlife protection law (he covers also land-use law, together with Professor Tom De Waele, and agrarian law), and by Professor Frank Maes and Professor An Cliquet from the Maritime Institute, who are experts in international and European environmental law and biodiversity law. Their PhDs were on marine pollution from shipping (Frank Maes, 1996) and nature conservation in the marine and coastal environment (An Cliquet, 2001). Professor Frank Maes is known as a pioneer in the field of  marine spatial planning. From 2000 on, fundamental research has been carried out based on research projects and also due to increased foreign scientific cooperation, resulting in more than 30 PhDs. Besides PhD research, policy-oriented research supported by the Federal and the Flemish government remained an important component of the CMER research objectives. In 1999 the federal law on the protection of the marine environment was drafted (Frank Maes & An Cliquet) and adopted, in 2000-2003 the Flemish decree on integrated water policy, implementing the EU Water Framework Directive, was drafted  (Luc Lavrysen, Frank Maes, Peter De Smedt, Gwendoline Gonsaeles) and  adopted, and in 2001-2005 a model nature conservation and wildlife protection act was drafted (Geert Van Hoorick & An Cliquet). With Professor Frederik Vandendriessche and Professor Jelle Laverge (from the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning) joining the CMER, multidisciplinary research in energy law became an additional spearhead of the CMER. In 2020 Professor Lavrysen has been appointed as President of the Belgian Constitutional Court and in 2021 he retired as professor, but is still an active member of the CMER. In the same year Professor Hendrik Schoukens, whose PhD was on legal aspects of ecological restoration in the EU (2017) was appointed and joined the CMER, contributing to the expertise of the CMER in the field of nature  conservation and wildlife protection, as well as general environmental law (environmental impact assessment and climate change litigation). Since the retirement of Professor Luc Lavrysen, Professor Geert Van Hoorick is the director of the CMER. Recently also heritage law and animal welfare law have been brought within the scope of the CMER’s research. Currently the focus of fundamental research project is on topics such as ecological restoration, climate change and nature conservation, rights for nature, animal rights, local energy communities, and interconnectivity of the Belgian offshore wind farms.


The CMER cooperates with other research groups within the Faculty of Law and Criminology, within Ghent University, and with other research groups in Belgium and abroad, and it maintains close relationships with environmental and energy law colleagues from other universities.

Within the Faculty there is a tight cooperation with the Maritime Institute  and the Human Rights Centre. The CMER is a partner within the Human Rights Research Network.

Outside the Faculty, but within Ghent University, the CMER has a cooperation with or is partner of the following research groups: Energhentic and Building Physics. Its members cooperate regularly with the Centre for Environmental Science and Technology, the Centre for Sustainable Development and BLUEGent.

CMER members participate in energy related research groups or partnerships: Bluebridge, Powerlink, PhairywinD LECSEA and UNITED.

The CMER is a partner of the UGhent-KULeuven Environmental Lawforce and is member of the Vlaamse Vereniging voor Omgevingsrecht (VVOR)  and the Overlegplatform voor Energiedeskundigen (OVED).

The cooperation with research groups outside Belgium is structural with partners with whom the CMER has an official cooperation agreement with, such as  the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, the Research Institute of Environmental Law (RIEL) of Wuhan University (PR China),  and with the partners of the Enlight Consortium (

The CMER also cooperates with the European Federation of Judges for the Environment (EUFJE) and has membership in and/or cooperates with the Environmental Law Commission of the IUCN, the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, Environmental Law Network International (Elni),  the European Environmental Law Forum (EELF), the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER), and the International Nuclear Law Association (INLA). The organization of the IUCN international conference on the 20th birthday of the Habitats Directive in Antwerp in 2012 was a milestone, placing the CMER at the centre of worldwide environmental law research.

For decades the CMER has held the editorship of (Tijdschrift voor Milieurecht) and is still holding (by Prof. Tom De Waele) the editorship of the Tijdschrift voor Ruimtelijke Ordening en Stedenbouw and STORM, and members of the CMER often review contributions for international and national legal journals.

Recent PhD research in the spotlight

  • La CITES et la lutte contre la criminalité liée aux espèces sauvages. Évaluation de l’effectivité et de l’efficacité de la CITES et de sa mise en oeuvre en Belgique et en RDC, June 2021.

Researcher : Cleo Mashini
Supervisor : An Cliquet

foto Aysegul SirakayaPrès de 50 ans après la signature de la CITES en 1973, la criminalité liée aux espèces sauvages prend des proportions inquiétantes allant jusqu’à menacer la sécurité internationale. Celle-ci affecte particulièrement des espèces phares comme l’éléphant, braconné pour le trafic de son ivoire. Aussi, la présente thèse évalue-t-elle l’effectivité et l’efficacité de la CITES ainsi que de sa mise en œuvre en Belgique et en RDC. Il en ressort que les États, outre certaines lacunes de leurs cadres légaux et la faible application de ceux-ci, sont écartelés entre les pesanteurs économiques, scientifiques et politiques. Ainsi, l’étude suggère-t-elle tout d’abord d’appliquer effectivement les textes en vigueur, ensuite d’envisager certaines réformes dont l’institution d’un mécanisme financier, le développement des stratégies nationales CITES, l’allocation de plus de ressources et la judiciarisation de ces crimes au niveau international en envisageant les rôles de la CPI et de la CIJ dans leur répression.

  • A balanced system for access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources, May 2021

Researcher: Aysegul Sirakaya
Supervisor: An Cliquet

  • Legal Analysis on the Law of International Watercourses and MEAs : An Integrated Protection and Preservation of the Ecosystems of International Watercourses, 2020.

Description: Current international environmental agreements have already formed a fixed legal structure which allows them to improve synergies in text interpretation and practical implementation. This research examines the question of to what extent could the coherence of normativity and implementation between international watercourses law, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the Biodiversity Convention contribute to the protection and preservation of international watercourse ecosystems.  This PhD was funded by the Chinese Scholarship Council and the BOF of Ghent University.

ResearcherYang Liu
SupervisorAn Cliquet and Frank Maes

  • Governance of climate technologies: the role of international environmental law in regulating and facilitating carbon capture and storage, 2021

Description: Climate change is coming, can technologies be the saviour? In a broader perspective of a ‘living’ law, this research aims at using the role of international environmental law in governing carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a case study to review multifaceted governance issues along the full-value chain of the climate technology deployment , to recast the model of conducting studies surrounding the theme of climate technology governance, to reshape the theoretical pillars underlying this theme, and to re-orient new paths of governing climate technologies. With the central question ‘what is the role of law in the governance of climate technologies such as CCS?’ at the heart, this thesis takes its root in a broad governance context beyond the law, strengthening a fundamental theoretical pillar, drawing a general governance framework, and focusing on the specific level of international environmental law.

Researcher: Meng Zhang
Supervisor: Luc Lavrysen

Ongoing PhD research

  • Elien Verniers Innovative Legal Instruments for Animal Welfare (2018-2022) - Supervisor: prof. dr. Geert Van Hoorick - BOF Ghent University PhD Fellowship
  • Angelo Goethals, Legal framework for (inter)connecting the Belgian offshore wind energy farms (2020-2025) – Supervisor: prof. dr. Frederik Vandendriessche, prof. dr. Frank Maes, prof. dr. Pierre-Olivier de Broux - PhairywinD, Energy Transition Fund
  • Ting Chen, Institutionalization of Demand-Side Management of Renewable Electricity: A Comparative Analysis between the EU and China (2020-2024) – Supervisor: prof. dr. Frederik Vandendriessche, prof. dr. Hendrik Schoukens  - China Scholarship Council, BOF
  • Edouard Dumolin, Implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings directive
  • Maja Reynebeau, The use of the (sub)soil for the construction and operation of heat networks in the Flemish Region
  • Abdullah Örengula, European Energy Policy. Challenges and Recommendations for Legal Change and Improvement  - Supervisor: prof. dr. Frank Maes
  • Yana Yakushina, Light pollution – Supervisor: prof. dr. Geert Van Hoorick, prof. dr. Olga Kozyr
  • Beatrice Hamilton, The protection of the environment during armed conflict: The fundamental right of nature as a springboard to a new stream of environmental law for the protection of the environment during armed conflict - Supervisor: Prof. Dr. An Cliquet, Prof. Dr. Tom Ruys.
  • Zhenzhen Rong, The Public Trust System as a means to advance ecological restoration in China -Supervisor: Prof. Dr. An Cliquet, Prof. Dr. Hendrik Schoukens.
  • Yannick Terryn, De Illegale markt getackeld : queeste naar een adequate en geïntegreerde regelgeving ter bestraffing van de  internationale illegale handel in fauna en flora – Supervisor: Prof. Dr. An Cliquet.
  • Deborah Vunza Mayengo, Promoting sustainable management of the Virunga National Park endangered by oil drilling: a legal and institutional analysis – Supervisor: Prof. Dr. An Cliquet, Prof. Dr. Blaise-Pascal Ntirumenyerwa.
  • Lien Stolle, A legal analysis of online intimidation tactics that aim to silence environmental defenders – Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Eva Lievens, Prof. Dr. An Cliquet

Defended Phds

  • Hubert Bocken (De aansprakelijkheid als sanctie voor de verstoring van het leefmilieu - 1979)
  • Frank Maes (De bescherming van de Noordzee tegen verontreiniging veroorzaakt door de koopvaardijscheepvaart : internationale rechten en verplichtingen van staten, met bijzondere aandacht voor de Europese statenpraktijk – 1996)
  • Luc Lavrysen (De ontwikkeling van het Europese, Belgische en Vlaamse Milieurecht in een wijzigende institutionele context - 1997)
  • Geert Van Hoorick (Juridische instrumenten voor het natuurbehoud en de landschapszorg - 1999)
  • An Cliquet (Natuurbehoud in het mariene en kustzonemilieu. Overzicht en analyse van de juridische mogelijkheden, met bijzondere aandacht voor het mariene en kustzonemilieu van België – 2001)
  • Paul Vansant (De herstelmaatregel in het Vlaamse Decreet Ruimtelijke Ordening -2005)
  • Carole Billiet (De bestuurlijke handhaving van het milieuhygiënerecht - 2008)
  • Olubayo Oluduro (Oil exploration and human rights violations in Nigeria's oil producing communities - 2012)
  • Nils Goeteyn (Decision-making, compliance and international environmental governance: a legal analysis – 2012);
  • Wen Xiang (Risk governance of GMOs in the EU and in China -2013)
  • Roel Meeus (De sanctionering door de lidstaten van inbreuken op het Europees milieurecht: tussen handhavingsnood en sanctieverplichtingen – 2013)
  • Nicole de Moor (International Migration and Environmental Change : Legal Frameworks for International Adaptive Migration - 2014)
  • Jimena Murillo Chavarro  (The human right to water: a legal comparative perspective at the international, regional and domestic level  - 2014).
  • Qin He (Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing: A comparative study - 2014)
  • Miao He (A human rights-based approach to conserve protected areas in China: Lessons from Europe - 2014)
  • Ping Chen (A comparative legal study of emissions trading systems in the EU and in China – 2014)
  • Olubisi Friday Oluduro (Mitigating the effects of climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa via an effective international legal standard: a case study of Nigeria- 2014)
  • Frederik Haentjens (Onderzoek naar de impact van de regelgeving inzake ruimtelijke ordening op de totstandkoming en de uitvoering van privaatrechtelijke overeenkomsten – 2015)
  • Blaise-Pascal Ntirumenyerwa Mihigo (L’optimisation Juridique Du Paiement Pour Services Environnementaux En Faveur de La Préservation Des Services Environnementaux Dans Le Bassin Du Congo : Le Cas Du Cameroun et de La République Démocratique Du Congo – 2016)
  • Nicky Broeckhoven (Integrating Gender into the Rio Conventions : An International Legal Perspective – 2017)
  • Mumbala Abelungu Junior (Le Droit International Humanitaire et La Protection Des Enfants En Situation de Conflits Armés : Étude de Cas de La République Démocratique Du Congo – 2017)
  • Hendrik Schoukens (Ecological Restoration as New Environmental Paradigm : A Legal Review of Opportunities and Challenges within the Context of EU Environmental Law, with a Particular Focus on the EU Nature Directives – 2017)
  • Flavia Marisi (Environmental interests in investment arbitration – 2019)
  • Oluwamuyiwa Ojo (Enforceability of environmental rights : a possible Panacea to man’s environmental Imbroglio : Nigeria’s Niger-Delta as a case study – 2019)
  • Robert Makgill (Sustainable management of the sea: Identifying a body of sustainable management jurisprudence composed of law of sea doctrine and New Zealand state practice - 2019).
  • Thary Derudder ( Our Past Beneath the Waves: The Legal Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage from an International, North Sea and Belgian Perspective” – 2019).
  • Yang Liu (Legal analysis on the Law of International Watercourses and MEAs : an integrated protection and preservation of the ecosystems of international watercourses – 2020).
  • Lise Vandenhende (De beschermenswaardigheid van onroerend erfgoed: naar sterkere bindende criteria – 2020).
  • Anemoon Soete (The international legal personality of island states permanently submerged due to climate change effects - (2020).- Meng Zhang (Governance of climate technologies: the role of international environmental law in regulating and facilitating carbon capture and storage – 2021)
  • Aysegul Sirakaya (A balanced system for access and benefit-sharing of genetic – 2021).
  • Cleo Mashini (La CITES et la lutte contre la criminalité liée aux espèces sauvages. Évaluation de l’effectivité et de l’efficacité de la CITES et de sa mise en oeuvre en Belgique et en RDC – 2021).

Recent policy oriented research in the spotlight 

  • Integration of Environmental Law, 2021-2022

Description: This interdisciplinary project in which de CMER cooperates with the KULeuven Department of Architecture, aims at formulating strategies for a more integrated legislation on environment and land-use in the long term.  In Dutch it is called ‘Traject Integratie Regelgeving ruimte en milieu’. This project is funded by the Department of Environment of the Flemish Region (2021-2022).

Researcher: Geert Van Hoorick, Hendrik Schoukens, Tom De Waele
Promoter: Geert Van Hoorick, Hendrik Schoukens

  • Legal Protection of Ecosystems, 2020-2021

Legal protection of ecosystemsDescription: This legal research project aims at evaluating current nature conservation and wildlife legislation, analysing some innovative foreign legal instruments, and providing suggestions for a better long term protection of ecosystems. In Dutch it is called ‘Rechtsbescherming ecosystemen’. This project is funded by the Department of Environment of the Flemish Region (2020-2021).

Link to the report:

Researcher: Geert Van Hoorick, Hendrik Schoukens
Promoter: Geert Van Hoorick

List of the main applied research projects

  • Ecology Clusters for Overall Waste Re-engineering in Flemish Sea­ports (ECOWARE, 1998 - 2000) - Life-Environment Program European Commission
  • MArine REsources Damage Assessment and Sustainable Management of the North Sea (MARE-DASM, 1998-2002 – DWTC (now: Belgian Science Policy – BELSPO)
  • Substitution of dangerous substances (1999-2000) - AMINAL
  • Policy analysis and proposals for optimising legal and social instruments for nature development projects (Flemish Impulse programme nature development - VLINA) (2000-2001)
  • Research on public support for nature conservation in Flanders, with UIA & Arteveldehogeschool Gent – Nature Department of Flemish government (2002-2004)
  • Training in environmental law for magistrates (2001-2002) – Department of Justice Belgium Justitie
  • Legislation project establishments emitting nuisances (2001-2003) – Department of Environment Flemish Region
  • Policy space for a national product policy (2001-2003) – Department of Science Belgium (POD Wetenschapsbeleid)
  • Legislation project for an integrated water act (2001-2003) - Department of Environment Flemish Region
  • Emission trading rights (2001 -2006) – Flemish government - Steunpunt Milieubeleidswetenschappen.
  • Elaboration and Implementation of a National Chemical Spill Contingency Plan for Latvia (NCSCP) (2002-2003) – Flemish Region
  • Implementation of European environmental law in Hungary (2001-2004) – Flemish government
  • Navigator environmental law (2001-2007) - VITO Flemish Region
  • Legislation project for an integrated nature conservation act (2001-2005) – Flemish government
  • Support center environmental sciences (2001-2006) – Flemish government
  • Law & Economics and enforcement of environmental law (2002-2004) – Department of Science Belgium (POD Wetenschapsbeleid)
  • Enviromental legislation for ports (2003-2004) – Department of Environment Flemish Region
  • The concept of ecological debt (2003-2004) - VLIR-BVO
  • Towards a Spatial Structure Plan for the Sustainable Management of the Sea (GAUFRE, 2003-2005) – DWTC (BELSPO)
  • Legal comparative study on financial compensation and taxes related to spatial planning (2004) – Department of Town and Country Planning Flemish Region
  • Area-based nature policy: operationalization and implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives (MIRA-be) – VMM (2004-2005)
  • Emissions of CO2, SO2 and Nox from ships (ECOSONOS, 2004-2006) - BELSPO
  • Audit of nuisance policy (2005) – Department of Environment Flemish Region
  • Development of an assessment framework for the policy related to selective waste streams (2006) – OVAM Flemish Region
  • Evaluation of climate change impacts and adaptation responses for marine activities (CLIMAR, 2007 – 2010) - BELSPO
  • Strategic Basic Research (SBO) project Environmental enforcement: a comparison of practice in the criminal and the administrative tracks (2007-2011) – IWT Flemish Region
  • Legal analysis of the concept of temporary nature in port areas (with law firm LDR) - Gemeentelijk havenbedrijf Antwerpen & NV Maatschappij voor Brugse Zeevaartinrichtingen (2007-2008).
  • An Ecosystem Approach in Sustainable Fisheries Management through Local Ecological Knowledge (LECOFISH, 2009 – 2011) - BELSPO.
  • Multidisciplinary Research Platform Biotechnology for a sustainable economy: WP Societal aspects of the carbon negative biobased economy (2010-2015) – Flemish Region
  • Legal support for the designation of marine protected areas in Belgian part of the North Sea (with law firm LDR) - FOD leefmilieu, Dienst Marien Milieu (2011-2012)
  • Archeological Heritage in the North Sea. Development of an efficient assessment methodology and approach towards a sustainable management policy and legal framework in Belgium (2012-2016) - IWT-SBO
  • Ocean Governance for Sustainability: Challenges, Options and the Role of Science (2015-2020) - EU COST-Action
  • Analysis of the federal law on the protection of the marine environment (with law firm Equal-Partners) - FOD leefmilieu, Dienst marine milieu (2019-2020).
  • Training in environmental law for the Department of Environment (2020) – Department of Environment Flemish Region
  • Legal protection of ecosystems (2020-2021) – Department of Environment Flemish Region
  • UNITED: multi-Use platforms and co-locatioN pilots boostIng cost-effecTive, and Ecofriendly and sustainable proDuction in marine environments (2020 – 2024) - H2020
  • Legal basis for the management of a transboundary nature park of the dunes between Dunkerque (France) and Westende (Belgium) (2021-22) – Flemish Region
  • Integration of environmental law (2021-22) – Department of Environment Flemish Region
  • LECSEA: research on local energy communities (2020-2022) - Interreg project
  • RENERGHETIC: research on local energy communities (2021-2023) - Horizon 2020 project