Skip to main content

Study information

Law and Policy for Sustainability

Module titleLaw and Policy for Sustainability
Module codeLAW3300C
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Tiago De Melo Cartaxo (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The module seeks to develop understanding of the role that law and policy have to play in the protection of the environment and responds to the cutting-edge environmental challenges facing the world today. You will be introduced to international legislation and policy that governs issues that compromise environmental quality like marine pollution, waste management and global warming. The module extends thinking from local agendas to develop more sustainably, through to global strategies to combat environmental harm.

You will develop the ability to understand and evaluate the role of law and policy in responding to the urgent environmental challenges facing the world today. It will introduce several different legal and policy tools, systems, theories, and approaches that have been proposed or are currently being implemented in preventing and responding to global environmental threats, giving students the opportunity to critically reflect upon them in the role of legal academics. You will also be introduced to four of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as to methods of drafting and writing policy instruments which can contribute to achieving the ambitions and targets of such SDGs in practice.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to introduce you to the various sectors of environmental and sustainability law and policy, offering an overview of basic principles while considering national and international responses to preventing and managing global environmental threats, mainly in connection to the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.

The module seeks to provide you with a practical understanding of international environmental law and policy. We will observe how important law and policy are in society and industry in promoting a low carbon footprint and managing environmental impact retrospectively. You will learn to think critically about the adequacy of current environmental protection from a legal and policy perspective and consider how law and policy for sustainable development might be reformed in the future.

The module aims to equip you with a broad understanding of international and local environmental and sustainability law and policy and the issues that shape it and will provide an essential foundation for any career that undergraduates might pursue in an environmental and/or sustainability field.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Explain the main features of legislation, policy and principles on a local, national and international basis for sustainable development;
  • 2. Demonstrate an awareness of some of the current debates in law and policy for sustainability and the role of law and policy in resolving competing interests in the areas of sustainable development;
  • 3. Link theoretical understandings of law and policy for sustainable development with practical perspective, while developing your critical thinking through the construction and defence of legal reasoning;
  • 4. Assess the future direction of law and policy in decision making for sustainability;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Communicate ideas concisely and precisely in writing to a target audience of policymakers and stakeholders;
  • 6. Develop oral communication skills to engage with specific audiences;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Understand and develop ideas in written form; and
  • 8. Communicate your ideas confidently orally for busy policymakers.

Syllabus plan

While the module’s precise content varies, it is anticipated that it will cover the following themes:

  • Introduction to international, EU and UK environmental law and policy
  • United Nations Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities (including air quality and climate change)
  • Responsible Consumption and Production (including circular economy and waste management)
  • Life Below Water (including water pollution, marine management, and access to water)
  • Life on Land (including habitat protection, land degradation and deforestation)
  • Introduction to policy writing tools

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching82 x 2-hour lectures + 4 x 1-hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching105 x 2-hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching72 x 2-hour workshops + 1 x 3-hour workshop
Guided independent study125A variety of private study tasks directed by module leader. These tasks may include: a) reading textbooks, journals and other literature; b) preparation for lectures and workshops by for example answering questions in advance of group discussions or preparing group presentations; c) preparation for and completion of examination; d) report preparation: conducting research, and writing the finished product

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Policy abstract100 words1-7Written and peer review
Assessing other policies15 minutes1-8Oral and peer review

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Policy presentation253 minutes1-8Written via eBART
Policy brief751,750 words1-7Written via eBART

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Policy presentationPolicy presentation (3 minutes)1-8Reassessment period
Policy briefPolicy brief (1,750 words)1-7Reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Essential Text Books:

Recommended Additional Resources: 

  • Birnie, Boyle and Redgwell, International Law & the Environment (4th edn, OUP 2018)
  • French, Duncan, and Louis J. Kotzé, eds. Sustainable development goals: law, theory and implementation (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018)
  • Sands and Peel, Principles of International Environmental Law, (4th edn. CUP 2018)  

Sample Journal Articles & Contributions to Edited Volumes:

  • Arnold, Craig Anthony (Tony), and Tiago de Melo Cartaxo. "Chapter 6: Resilience justice and adaptive law in European cities". In Urban Climate Resilience, (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022)
  • Gunningham, N. ‘Enforcing Environmental Regulation’ (2011) Journal of Environmental Law 23 (2): 169-201
  • Humphreys, S. ‘Competing claims: human rights and climate harms’ in Humphreys (Ed.), Human Rights and Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2010) Chapter 1 p37-66.
  • Lee, M. and C, Abbot, ‘The usual suspects? Public participation under the Aarhus Convention’ (2003) 66 Modern Law Review 80- 108.
  • Rajamani, L. ‘The 2015 Paris Agreement: Interplay Between Hard, Soft and Non-Obligations’ (2016) 28 Journal of Environmental Law 337–358.
  • Reid, C. and W. Nsoh, 'The Privatisation of Biodiversity?' (Edward Elgar, 2016) Chapter 9: Reflections pp.253-260.
  • Venn, Alice. ‘Social Justice and Climate Change’ in T. M. Letcher (Ed.) Managing Global Warming: An interface between technology and human issues (Elsevier, 2018) Chapter 24 pp.711-723.
  • Yamineva and Romppanen, ‘Is law failing to address air pollution? Reflections on international and EU developments’ (2017) RECIEL, 26(3) 189-200.
  • ELE

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • Electronic journals and databases such as EUR-Lex, West law, Lexis Nexis, Hein Online etc.
  • Those provided for and distributed to the students by the ESI and local environmental initiatives collaborated with.

Key words search

Environmental Law, Environmental Policy, Sustainable Development Goals

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date