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School of Law

Climate change law and policy

Course Code:
Unit value:
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Full Year

This course complements the existing offering in environmental law and offers a more focused course on one of the most sensitive environmental issues of our time. It seeks to provide a broad analytical view of the problem of climate change law and policy in its broader context.

The course will first examine a number of background topics as well as the main international legal instruments that constitute international climate law and policy. This will include an examination of the underlying principles of climate change law and policy, an introduction to the UN Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, a focus on specific legal issues arising the context of the UN regime such as compliance and liability as well as an analysis of more specific problems such as regional approaches and relations between climate change law and other areas of law such as trade law.

The course will then move on to examine a number of specific problems arising in the context of the law and policy response to climate change both concerning mitigation and adaptation. Specific problems examine will include human rights implications, agriculture and climate change, land-use, forests and biodiversity and climate change, energy and transport.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

The course aims to provide a comprehensive survey of the developments of law and policy in relation to climate change. The course will critically examine interlinkages between normative and substantive developments in a number of law and policy fields relating to climate change including trade, investment, liability and redress, adaptation and development. It will primarily adopt an international perspective but will also draw on regional and country case studies. The latter will provide the basis for comparing the ongoing development of climate change law and policy in countries of the North and South.

Students on completing the course will be able to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of and familiarity with the most salient issues within climate related law and policies. They will be able to show familiarity with key legal and policy developments across such a broad range: energy sector, marine, insurance and liability, human rights, adaptation and finance mechanisms. This will give any student an advantage in gaining employment as employees within law firms, governments, businesses and non-state actors seek climate literate candidates to fill this new section of the job market.

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 50% unseen examination, 50% coursework (one essay of 5,000 words)

Suggested reading

  •  Stephen H. Schneider et al. eds, Climate Chage Science and Policy (Island Press, 2010).
  • David Freestone and Charlotte Streck, eds, Legal Aspects of Carbon Trading: Kyoto, Copenhagen and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Bert Bolin, A History of the Science and Politics of Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • William James Burroughs, Climate Change: A Multidisciplinary Approach (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • J. Timmons Roberts and Bradley C. Parks, A Climate of Injustice: Global Inequality, North-South Politics and Climate Policy (MIT Press, 2006).
  • Lisa Schipper & Ian Burton eds, The Earthscan Reader on Adaptation to Climate Change (Earthscan, 2008).
  • Nicholas Stern, The Economics of Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • Farhana Yamin & Joanna Depledge, The International Climate Change Regime – A Guide to Rules, Institutions and Procedures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
  • Farhana Yamin ed., Climate Change and Carbon Markets – A Handbook of Emissions Reduction Mechanisms 1 (London: Earthscan, 2005).
  • Sebastian Oberthur and Herman Ott, The Kyoto Protocol: International Climate Policy for the 21st Century (Berlin: Springer-verlag, 1999).