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Environmental law deals with pressing legal and social issues within Australia and internationally that range from biodiversity protection to waste reduction. This subject provides an overview of fundamental environmental law concepts and principles, such as the precautionary principle. It charts the evolution of Australian environmental law in response to global environmental challenges, such as climate change, as well as national regulatory reforms. The subject equips students with a thorough grounding in environmental impact assessment law by reference to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth). It examines the regulatory tools and approaches relevant to pollution control and ecological protection– including market mechanisms and offset models. This subject introduces international environmental law; dealing with issues such as trans-boundary harm and World Heritage protection, that have shaped Australian environmental law.
Principal topics include:
- The scope of environmental law – nationally and internationally – including transboundary regulation.
- The multidisciplinary character of environmental law and regulation that needs to respond to complex, multilevel environmental problems.
- The diversity of environmental law approaches from the common law through direct regulation to market measures and community engagement.
These themes are illustrated by case studies in the following areas:
- Environmental law: Principles and concepts
- Environmental actors, including public interest litigation with a focus on biodiversity protection
- The procedures and substantive law governing impact assessment and development approvals.
- Legal and regulatory tools used in environmental law, including duty of care concepts in pollution laws.
- The interaction of law and science, with a focus on the precautionary principle
- Implementation, compliance and enforcement in Environmental Law
- International environmental law, including biodiversity protection, world heritage cases and climate change governance.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject should:
- Have an advanced understanding of the evolution of environmental law and the factors driving change and reform at an international and national level
- Have a sound general knowledge of the concepts of environmental law and be able to assess the efficacy of the principles of environmental regulation
- Have a detailed understanding of the influence of other disciplines, such as science, on environmental law
- Be able to critically examine, interpret, analyse, and assess the nature of current environmental law approaches such as environmental impact assessment and the 'regulatory mix’
- Be an engaged participant in debates over key case studies that illustrate trends in environmental law, such as cumulative impact assessment and offsetting for biodiversity conservation
- 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 legal and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse legal issues relating to environmental protection and restoration
- Have the communication skills to articulate and convey clearly complex information regarding issues in environmental law
- Be able demonstrate autonomy and expert judgment in analysing case law and statutes in the field of environmental law.
Last updated: 10 November 2023