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The International Politics of Climate Change


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • Introduction to International Relations and Diplomacy and

  • either Power in World Politics or Foundational Texts in World Politics

Recommended course(s):

  • Introduction to Globalisation and Transnational Politics;

  • Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies;

  • International and Regional Organisations


Environmental problems, such as climate change, constitute one of the biggest policy challenges facing governments around the world. This course provides a comprehensive and critical introduction to international politics of climate change. It introduces the ethical, political and institutional challenges raised by the global environmental crisis and key political, policy and institutional responses. The course critically explores different environmental worldviews and discourses, the environmental treaty system and the complex relationship between global environmental and economic governance. These worldviews and discourses highlight both continuities and discontinuities with existing local, national and global political structures created by environmental problems. The course explores the ways in which state, non-state and international organisations understand environmental problems and the diverse policy actions that have been proposed and/or taken in response. Key global debates about sustainable development, green growth, environmental justice and ecological security will be explored along with a range of case studies in the Global South, including from Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. In analysing the politics of climate change, questions of gender and ethnicity will be explicitly addressed in the course.

Course Objectives

On completion of this subject students should:

  • Have gained an understanding of the range of perspectives on environmental issues and how environmental issues may be understood as political issues;

  • Recognise the major environmental and developmental tensions and debates within the national, international and global communities, particularly the sustainable development debate and the tensions between environmental and economic global governance;

  • Be able to identify the different ways in which new environmental issues, actors, interests and agendas have challenged the basic norms and institutions of global governance;

  • Be able to apply theoretical tools in the analysis of environmental problems and controversies.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour (online or face-to-face) seminars. Students will be expected to participate in both large and small group discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in group projects. The instructor will facilitate and ensure the efficient running of the discussion, but students are responsible for its quality.

Assessment Method

Participation: 15%
Presentation: 15%
Essay #1: 30%
Essay #2: 40%

Reading list

Roughly 25 academic papers (approx 550-600 pages).


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Maryse Helbert (email TBC)