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This subject will examine the nature and capacity of international law to accommodate both environment and development objectives. It will explore the meaning of ‘development’, the legal basis for promoting development, and the ways in which states balance environment and development considerations in international law. The nexus between development and the environment in international law is complex. International laws protecting the environment have evolved to take account of development considerations. Environmental treaties such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change provide for different commitments from developing and developed countries. Meanwhile, international cooperation fostering development has been shaped by environmental protection. Economic instruments, such as those governing international trade, impact on environmental regulation, and development lending is often linked to environmental performance. The catch-all concept of sustainable development is invoked by states to combine consideration for environmental, economic and social development imperatives leading to contested outcomes.
Principal topics include:
- The historical evolution of the concept of ‘sustainable development’ in international law and the crafting of ‘Sustainable Development Goals’
- A critical appraisal of characterisations of ‘rights’ to a clean environment and to development in international law
- Case studies demonstrating how international laws to protect the environment take account of development considerations
- Case studies demonstrating how international economic instruments impact on or integrate environmental protection
- A critical assessment of the role of international law in states’ cooperative efforts to balance environment and development objectives.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the international legal principles governing the environmental impacts of development, including recent developments in this field of law and practice
- Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the effects and implications of these legal rules
- Be an engaged participant in debate regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field, such as the place of ‘sustainable development’ in international environmental law and the relationship between international economic instruments and environmental protection
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of the factors and processes driving the coordination of development and environment objectives in international decision-making
- Have an advanced and detailed understanding of the international laws and processes that attempt to combine environment and development considerations
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating the relationship between development and environmental protection in international law and to critically evaluate the outcomes from the different perspectives of the North and the South
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal issues relating to the intersection between the development project and environmental impact
- Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding international legal instruments and concepts that aim to balance development and environment objectives
- Be able demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of international law at the intersection of development and environmental protection priorities.
Last updated: 2 December 2019