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School of Law

International environmental law

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course examines international legal and institutional arrangements concerning the conservation and use of the environment. It examines both theoretical and practical dimensions of these arrangements.

This course explores some of the most salient aspects of the expanding area of international environmental law. It is built around the understanding that international environmental law is about both conservation and use (captured in the notion of sustainable development). It is also structured around an understanding that it is the North-South dimension of environmental issues that explains a large part of existing international environmental law.

The course covers, for instance:

  • principles of international environmental law (such as the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and the precautionary principle),
  • environmental justice (human rights, participatory rights);
  • issues related to the protection of the environment from industrial activities (hazardous activities, wastes, air pollution);
  • issues related to the conservation of the environment (species, biological diversity);
  • issues related the use/exploitation of environmental resources;
  • questions related to compliance, effectiveness and the enforcement of international environmental law, including civil liability and compliance mechanisms; and
  • links with other fields, such as links between trade and the environment.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • To introduce the general international legal and institutional framework relating to the management of the environment;
  • To equip students with a broad understanding of the law concerning the environment at the international level;
  • To provide students with knowledge of basic concepts and principles underlying the conservation and use of the environment at the international level;
  • To equip students with analytical tools with which they may understand the international legal framework of environmental law in its broader context, including political, economic, social and ecological dimensions.

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 50% (5000 words)
  • Unseen written exam: 50%

Suggested reading

  • Patricia Birnie, Alan Boyle & Catherine Redgwell, International Law and the Environment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).  
  • Daniel Bodansky, Jutta Brunnée & Ellen Hey eds, The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  • Malgosia Fitzmaurice, David M. Ong & Panos Merkouris eds, Research Handbook on International Environmental Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2010).
  • David Leary & Balakrishna Pisupati eds, The Future of International Environmental Law (New York: United Nations University, 2010).
  • Philippe Sands, Jacqueline Peel with Adriana Fabra, Ruth MacKenzie, Principles of International Environmental Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 3rd ed. 2012).