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Human Rights and Climate Change (LAWS70452)

Graduate coursework level 7Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 7
Subject codeLAWS70452
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject will introduce and explore the main concepts, laws, institutions and policies at the intersection of international climate change law and international human rights law.

Specifically, this subject will explore two aspects of the intersection between climate change and human rights. First it will explore the nature and extent to which the impacts of climate change and response measures to address climate change can affect the realization of core human rights. It will examine the substantive and procedural rights afforded through national, regional and international instruments to those affected by environmental harms, and the ways in which such rights can be extended to cover climate harms. It will in this context analyze cases in national, regional and international courts and tribunals that engage human rights in the context of climate harms. Second, this subject will examine the treatment of human rights in the international climate change regime, and the prospects for further integration of human rights concerns in the regime.

More broadly, through a study of these two aspects, this subject will examine the potential, prospects and limits of international law in protecting the rights of those affected by climate harm.

Principal topics include:

  • Articulation of environmental protection in the language of human rights, both substantive and procedural, in international, regional and national human rights systems, instruments and case law
  • Autonomous ‘right to a healthy environment’ and its extension to a healthy climate
  • ‘Greening’ of established rights such as the right to life, health and privacy, and their extension to protection from climate harms
  • Treatment of human rights in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and the 2018 Katowice Rules

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this course will:

  • Have a sophisticated understanding of the conceptual architecture of the international and regional human rights system as well as the international climate change regime within which the human rights implications of climate change impacts can be addressed.
  • Have knowledge of the full range of substantive and procedural rights that can be invoked to offer protection against environmental and climate harm.
  • Have insight into the potential and limits of the autonomous healthy right to the environment, and the extent to which it can be extended to cover a healthy climate.
  • Have nuanced appreciation of the potential and limits of international climate change law and international human rights law in protecting the rights of those affected by climate harm.
  • Have the skills to sift through and interpret a range of UN Resolutions, UNFCCC documents, decisions and instruments.
  • Have the ability to make sharp, targeted, insightful, well-researched and original interventions in debates relating to climate change and human rights.
  • Have the expertise to marshal facts and evidence in making a convincing argument, if litigating cases relating to climate change and human rights.

Eligibility and requirements


Melbourne Law Masters Students: None

JD Students: Successful completion of the below subject:

Code Name Teaching period Credit Points
LAWS50049 International Human Rights Law
Semester 2



Non-allowed subjects


Recommended background knowledge

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Core participation requirements

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact Student Equity and Disability Support.


Additional details

  • Class participation (10%)
  • Individual class presentation (15 mins) on an allocated topic (20%)
  • 6,000 word research paper (70%) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator (25 September)

A minimum of 75% attendance is a hurdle requirement.

Quotas apply to this subject

Dates & times

  • July
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours24-34 hours
    Total time commitment150 hours
    Pre teaching start date 5 June 2019
    Pre teaching requirementsThe pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.
    Teaching period 3 July 2019 to 9 July 2019
    Last self-enrol date10 June 2019
    Census date 3 July 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail16 August 2019
    Assessment period ends25 September 2019

    July contact information


    Professor Lavanya Rajamani, Coordinator

    Email: law-masters@unimelb.edu.au
    Phone: +61 3 8344 6190
    Website: law.unimelb.edu.au

Additional delivery details

This subject has a quota of 30 students.

Enrolment is on a first come, first served basis. Waitlists are maintained for subjects that are fully subscribed.

Students should note priority of places in subjects will be given as follows:

  • To currently enrolled Graduate Diploma and Masters students with a satisfactory record in their degree
  • To other students enrolling on a single subject basis, eg Community Access Program (CAP) students, cross-institutional study and cross-faculty study.

Please refer to the Melbourne Law Masters website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Further information

Last updated: 20 July 2019