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Environmental law deals with some of the most vital but also highly controversial issues within Australia and the global society. Environmental issues are a prominent feature of public debate, scientific research and regulatory action and this subject canvasses how law has evolved in response to such challenges, as well as identifying where reform may be required. The subject equips students with a strong grounding in the foundational principles of environmental law in Australia by reference to the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999, as well as relevant pollution control and biodiversity legislation. In addition, it provides an introduction to international environmental law dealing with questions such as trans-boundary harm and World Heritage protection, as well as considering how international influences have shaped the direction of Australian environmental law.
This subject will provide an examination of the development and current scope of Australian environmental law, with a focus on the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) and related state environmental protection legislation.
Principal topics include:
- The growing importance of international law, with the recognition that environmental protection issues cross regulatory boundaries
- Greater integration between relevant discipline areas concerned with environmental protection
- Greater diversity in environmental law approaches, including integration with other regulatory areas such as planning, natural resource management, water use and indigenous land management, and financial measures and economic instruments.
These themes will be illustrated by case studies in the following areas:
- Environmental law: The drivers of change
- Environmental actors, including public interest litigation
- The range of legal and regulatory tools deployed in environmental law, including consideration of market mechanisms
- The interaction of law and science, with a focus on the precautionary principle
- Integration and complexity challenges in implementing environmental law with a focus on biodiversity protection
- International law trends, including trade and environment and climate change governance.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the evolution of environmental law and the factors driving change at an international and national level
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of the pervasive nature of environmental regulation
- Have a detailed understanding of the influence of other disciplines, such as science, on the scope and character of environmental law
- Be able to critically examine, interpret, analyse, and assess the nature of current environmental law approaches such as the ‘regulatory mix’
- Be an engaged participant in debate over key case studies that illustrate the dynamic trends in environmental law, such as cumulative impact assessment
- Have an advanced understanding of the need for integration across many areas of law to achieve environmental goals, such as ecologically sustainable development.
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal issues relating to environmental law and its development
- Have the communication skills to articulate and convey clearly complex information regarding issues in environmental law
- Be able demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of environmental law and its intersections with science, policy and regulation.
Last updated: 3 November 2022