John H. Knox is the Henry C. Lauerman Professor of International Law at Wake Forest University. He has taken a leave from CPR while serving as the United Nations' first Independent Expert on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. After serving an initial three-year term beginning in 2012, his mandate was extended in March 2015 for another three years as a Special Rapporteur.
Professor Knox has taught courses on environmental law, international environmental law, human rights, international trade, and property law. His scholarship examines international environmental law, human rights law, and international economic integration, and has often focused on areas where those fields overlap or conflict.
In recent years, he has advised the UN Human Rights Council, the World Bank, and the Government of the Maldives on the relationship between climate change and human rights law, and provided assistance to the special representative of the UN Secretary General on human rights and corporations. For several years, he chaired a national advisory committee to EPA on environmental cooperation among the three North American governments. He is a special counselor at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).
Before joining academia, Professor Knox served as an attorney in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the Department of State, where his responsibilities included the negotiation of the first regional environmental agreement in North America, as a side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement. After leaving the State Department, he worked for four years in private practice in Austin, Texas, representing a variety of clients in environmental litigation.
His scholarship includes articles on transboundary environmental harm, climate change and human rights, duties of corporations under human rights law, and the environmental aspects of international trade. His recent work includes: Diagonal Environmental Rights, in Universal Human Rights and Extraterritorial Obligations (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010); Neglected Lessons of the NAFTA Environmental Regime, 45 Wake Forest L. Rev. 391 (2010) [SSRN];]; Climate Change and Human Rights Law, 50 Va. J. Int’l L. 163 (2009) [SSRN]; Linking Human Rights and Climate Change at the United Nations, 33 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 477 (2009) [SSRN]; Horizontal Human Rights Law, 102 Am. J. Int’l L. 1 (2008) [SSRN]; and The Boundary Waters Treaty: Ahead of Its Time, and Ours, 54 Wayne L. Rev. 1591 (2008) [SSRN]. His most recent article, A Presumption Against Extrajurisdictionality [SSRN], on the extraterritorial application of U.S. law, was published in the July 2010 issue of the American Journal of International Law. His co-authored book, Greening NAFTA, analyzes the NAFTA environmental regime. He is currently writing a book on human (and other) environmental rights in international law.
Professor Knox graduated magna cum laude from Rice University in 1984, and in 1987 from Stanford Law School, where he was a senior editor of the law review and a member of the Order of the Coif. Before joining the State Department, he spent a year clerking for Judge Joseph T. Sneed of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.