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International Environmental Law


Admission requirements

Required course:

  • Principles of Public International Law

Recommended course:

  • 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, amongst others, 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. This course aims to provide students with an overview of the evolution of IEL, 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, inter alia, climate change, biodiversity loss, wildlife trading and marine pollution. Students will also consider the role of IEL in strengthening the rights of nature movement, as well as the governance of the oceans, the Arctic, and Antarctica.

Course Objectives

During the course students will read a selection of texts to explore key concepts and doctrines of IEL. Having successfully completed the course, students will have a fundamental knowledge of the principles of IEL and the challenges facing earth’s global environmental system. More specifically, students will gain an understanding of the foundations and evolution of IEL; state compliance with IEL, and the governance of climate change and atmospheric protection; the law of the sea; protection of the Arctic and Antarctica; conservation and biodiversity; ‘frontier’ issues such as deep sea mining and attributing legal rights to nature.

Through oral and written exercises, students will apply their knowledge and understanding of IEL to specific global environmental problems.

Upon completing this course students should be able to:


  • Learn how to source, analyse and present research related to an environmental issue.

  • Learn how to use this research as a tool to explore the effectiveness of specific treaties.

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


Building on the knowledge, the students will be able to:

  • 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 IEL.

  • 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 relating to climate change, marine pollution, biodiversity loss and wildlife trafficking, etc.


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

Mode of instruction

This course will meet for two 2-hour sessions per week from week 1-7 (week 8 is reading week). The structure of the 2-hour session will vary between seminar- style and focused discussion of assigned readings and student presentations. It is expected that students will engage actively in class discussions and debates.

Assessment Method

  • In class participation: 10% (ongoing week 1-7)

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

  • Anatomy of IEL: 25% (week 4)

  • Outline and annotated bibliography for final individual research paper: 15% (week 6)

  • Final individual research paper: 35% (due end of week 8)

Reading list

A reading list will be made available before the course starts.


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 Angela van der Berg,