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International environmental law is the field of public international law concerned principally with the protection of the natural environment. It is a vitally important branch of international law, seeking as it does to safeguard the environment on which humanity depends for its very existence. International environmental law seeks to integrate the activities of diverse actors — states, international organisations, businesses, communities and non-government organisations (NGOs) — and uses a wide range of legal tools (including economic instruments and participatory mechanisms) to address pressing environmental concerns. This subject explores the critical governance and regulatory dimensions of international environmental law, as well as introducing you to cases and treaties that have been pivotal to the development of this area of international law. The lecturers in the subject are international environmental law experts, with both academic and practical experience in the field, which will be drawn into the delivery of a stimulating and relevant subject.
Principal topics include:
- The need for international environmental law and its historical development
- Fundamental principles and concepts necessary for an understanding of international environmental law, eg sustainable development, precautionary principle and 'polluter pays' principle
- The principal institutions and actors involved in the creation, implementation and enforcement of international environmental law
- The principal cases and treaties that have been influential in the development of international environmental law
- Current issues of concern in international environmental law, including atmospheric pollution and climate change, the protection of the oceans, species protection and biodiversity as well as environmental issues relevant to finance, human rights and international trade.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of the need for, and historical development of, international environmental law
- Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the fundamental principles and concepts of international environmental law
- Be able to critically analyse, interpret and assess the contribution of cases, treaties and institutions to the development of international environmental law
- Be an engaged participant in debate regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field, such as multi-level environmental governance, participatory reforms and inter-linkages with other areas of international law
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to problems in the current environmental regime at the global level and to critically evaluate ways to improve international environmental law
- Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding substantive areas of international environmental law to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences
- Be able demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of international environmental law
Last updated: 5 April 2023