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International Environmental Law




Admissions requirements

Required: Principles of Public International Law. For EES students, Energy and Resource Management can also act as a supplementary prerequisite.


International environmental law (IEL) is an innovative, dynamic, and rapidly developing field that seeks to address global environmental issues such as the impacts of climate change and illegal trade in endangered species. As the causes, effects, and potential solutions of such global phenomena transcend national boundaries, international cooperation is increasingly important as reflected in a growing number of international environmental agreements governing issues ranging from nuclear testing, to hazardous substances, and atmospheric pollution. This course aims to provide students with an overview of the evolution of international environmental law, as well as an introduction to the major concepts, cases, and principles that shape effective global environmental governance. Throughout the course, attention will be focused on international responses to environmental issues with a transboundary or global scope. Following the introductory lectures, which will set the scene by introducing the rules and principles of IEL, students will have an opportunity to explore the role of international law in regulating environmental problems such as marine pollution, climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and the destruction of the environment during armed conflict, as well as the governance of the oceans, outer space, the Arctic, and Antarctica.

Course objectives


  • Students will develop an argument and write a policy brief.

  • Students will learn how to source, analyse and present data related to an environmental issue. They will also learn how to use this data as a tool to explore the effectiveness of specific treaties.

  • Students will learn to communicate effectively through oral and written assignments, and how to work together effectively in a group setting.


  • Think holistically about global environmental issues and discuss the complexity of human interaction with the earth’s biosphere.

  • Describe the foundations and evolution of IEL.

  • Discuss and identify key concepts and doctrines of international environmental law.

  • Critically reflect on the successes and failures in current (and past) efforts to govern the global environment.

  • Apply the knowledge gained in class to evaluate various environmental governance regimes, such as climate change and atmospheric protection; protection of the Arctic and Antarctica; and conservation and biodiversity.


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will proceed primarily as a seminar. Each class will include opening remarks/introductory lecture followed by a discussion of assigned readings, class activities, and student presentations. It is expected that students will engage actively in class discussions and debates.


  • Participation: 10% (ongoing week 1-7)

  • Discussion leader: 15% (each student does this this once in the block, week 3-7)

  • Anatomy of IEL: 30% (each student does this this once in the block)

  • Theory and Practice Plan: 10% (due week 4)

  • Theory and Practice Brief: 35% (due end of week 8)

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

A reading list will be made available before the course starts. A book is not required for this course as peer-reviewed journal articles are used.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Bríd Walsh