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International Environmental and Climate Politics


Admission requirements

Participation in the seminar is only permitted if the propaedeutic phase has been passed (60 EC).


Environmental issues, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, are among the most pressing problems facing the international community today. Yet countries often fall short of making meaningful progress in protecting the environment. The reasons for such failure tend to be political. This seminar examines the political processes, actors, and interests that shape international environmental policy.
The seminar is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on climate policy and applies three main theories: collective action problems, distributional politics, and ideational conflict. It further introduces the key actors, interests, and institutions involved in climate policy-making. To conclude this first part, students participate in a “World Climate Simulation,” where they each represent an assigned country and negotiate a hypothetical climate agreement.
The second part of the course discusses other international environmental agreements and challenges. These include agreements on ozone layer protection, acid rain, biodiversity, and fishing rights. For each new policy area, students will apply what they have learned in the first part of the seminar and discuss the similarities and differences between environmental problems. The seminar will also examine how environmental policy interacts with other international issues, such as geopolitical conflict and international trade.

Course objectives

After successfully completing the course, students should be able to:
1) understand the main theoretical approaches to international environmental policy
2) describe the relevant actors and institutions in environmental policy
3) identify important international environmental agreements and current environmental challenges
4) formulate and defend a negotiation position that is in line with the political and economic interests of the actor they are representing
5) find and critically evaluate recent literature on international environmental policy
6) communicate effectively in writing and orally

Mode of instruction

The course is based on seminar-style discussions of assigned readings. In addition, we will use one of the sessions to conduct an interactive climate negotiation simulation.

Assessment method

The final grade will be based on the following:
1. Attendance and in-class participation, including one presentation of a paper assigned as recommended reading (25%)
2. One preparation memo (max. 2000 words) for the climate negotiation simulation (35%)
3. One essay (max. 3000 words) that asks students to reflect on the literature on one international environmental agreement or problem of their choice. (40%)

Reading list

Required readings will be recent journal articles. For introductory background reading, students may want to consult the following book, which is available online through the university library:

O’Neill, K. (2009). The Environment and International Relations. Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, MA.


See 'Practical Information'


See 'MyTimetable'