Research activity per year

Personal profile


Neil Gunningham has degrees in law and criminology from Sheffield University, UK, is a Barrister and Solicitor (ACT) and holds a PhD from ANU. Although initially trained in law, his subsequent post-graduate work was in interdisciplinary social science, and for the last thirty years he has applied that training principally in the areas of safety, health and environment, with a focus on regulation and governance. Currently,he is a Professor in the RegNet School of Regulation and Global Governance. Previously he was a Professor in the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Co-Director of the National Research Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Environmental Law (all at the ANU), Distinguished Research Professor at Cardiff University, and Visiting and Senior Fulbright Scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society, University of California, Berkeley.

Academic Highlights

Fulbright Senior Scholar, University of California, Berkeley. Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences.

Research interests

Gunningham's research has been concerned to identify the contribution that broader, innovative forms of regulation can make to safety, health and environmental policy. His work on regulatory mixes and Smart Regulation demonstrates the potential for resources outside the public sector to be harnessed in furtherance of government policy, and how combinations of public and private orderings and can be integrated into an overall optimal regulatory mix. His work on occupational health and safety regulation has focused on the relationship between management systems based approaches, trust and workplace culture. Another research agenda examines how some of the challenges of energy governance might best be addressed to achieve a transition to a low carbon economy.

He has two current research agendas. The first concerns the role of the fossil fuel divestment movement in climate change mitigation. The movement is examined through the lenses of the social movements and non-state governance literatures. This research shows that climate policy and governance is not only a top down, state-driven process but  bottom up and polycentric. In the latter context, contested normative issues can be as important as as instrumental ones.

A second agenda examines the role of financial markets in climate change mitigation and how an ‘energy revolution’ and a rapid transition to a low carbon economy might best be achieved. Conventional analysis emphasises the role of governments in mitigating climate change. However, there is emerging evidence that a very different approach, harnessing financial markets to invest in climate change and involving a range of non-state financial actors, could also play a major mitigation role. This research aims to identify the opportunities and impediments to catalyzing such an energy revolution and to identify the governance arrangements that are needed to bring it about.

Expertise Areas

  • Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety
  • Environmental and Natural Resources Law
  • Law and Society


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