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International Environmental Law




Admission Requirements

Ideally students should have taken a 200-level Global Justice course. If you are in doubt about whether your background is suitable, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


International environmental law is an innovative, dynamic, and rapidly developing field that seeks to ameliorate global environmental issues such as the impacts of climate change and marine pollution/exploitation. 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 disparate issues such as nuclear testing, 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 major players (international institutions and actors) in the field, students will have an opportunity to explore the role of international law in regulating environmental problems such as marine pollution, climate change, deforestation, and air pollution, as well as the governance of outer space, the Arctic, and Antarctica. Beyond this, we will also explore environmental protection during times of war and the interplay between human rights and climate change.

Course Objectives

Upon completing this course students should be able to:

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

  • Narrate the historical evolution of international environmental law and continuing development of the international environmental legal regime

  • Understand the legal treaties, concepts, and principles discussed in class

  • Identify and analyse issues involved in international environmental disputes

  • Undertake research on international environmental law issues (and know where to find relevant sources)

  • Display a capacity to communicate effectively, both orally and in the written form, about international environmental law issues

Mode of Instruction

This course will meet for two 2-hour sessions per week from week 1-7 (week 8 is reading week) and will proceed primarily as a seminar. That said, classes will often be equally divided between lecture and class discussion. Each class will include opening remarks/introductory lecture followed by a discussion of assigned readings and student presentations of supplementary texts. Early classes in the Block are likely to have more lecture-time than class discussion to provide a solid grounding in the principles of IEL, as the Block progresses it is likely that the opposite will be the case. It is expected that students will engage actively in class discussions and debates.


To be confirmed in the course syllabus:

Assessment: In-class participation
Percentage: 10%
Deadline: Weekly (Week 1–7)

Assessment: Bi-weekly critical reflection on the readings (600 words)
Percentage: 15%
Deadline: Ongoing week 2-7

Assessment: Group oral presentation
Percentage: 15%
Deadline: To be assigned.

Assessment: Debate
Percentage: 25%
Deadline: To be assigned.

Assessment: Final research essay (3000-3500 words)
Percentage: 35%
Deadline: End of Week 8


All students should obtain a copy of Sands, P., Peel, J., Fabra, A. and R. MacKenzie (2012) Principles of International Environmental Law, 3rd edition, Cambridge University Press.

This book is available on amazon ( or at ).

Contact Information

Dr. Bríd Walsh

Weekly Overview

Week 1: Introduction to international environmental law
Week 2: Rules and principles governing the global environment
Week 3: Atmosphere and climate governance
Week 4: Law of the Sea and protection of Antarctica and the Arctic
Week 5: Freshwater resources and biodiversity
Week 6: Hazardous activities and the environment
Week 7: Climate change, migration and human rights
Week 8: Reading week

Preparation for first session