BSc Environmental Management / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Concepts in Environmental Law

Course unit fact file
Unit code PLAN30671
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 6
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


In this course, we will examine how law and policy can be used to further environmental protection objectives. We begin with an Introduction to Environmental Law. In this first session, you will be introduced to some of the key sources of environmental law including legislation and case-law, and some important principles of environmental law. We will also track the historic development of environmental law. In the second session, and by way of a case-study, we’ll explore the international and national law relating to a particular environmental challenge, namely climate change. This has been very much in the news recently with COP27 (Conference of the Parties) held in Egypt late last year. Session three will outline the key policy framework within which environmental law has evolved, namely sustainable development. We will be contrasting this with an alternative approach called ecological modernisation. In session four, we will look at the role of the common law – judge made rules that have been developed over time and potentially have a place in the environmental law landscape. In sessions five to ten, we will be exploring different ways in which we can use law and regulation to tackle environmental challenges. Our starting point, is to introduce you to the concept of regulation – what is it and why do we need it? We then turn to different instruments of regulation – command and control, economic instruments, self-regulation and information and disclosure mechanisms. What are these approaches? What are their strengths and weaknesses? We end, in session 11, by evaluating the role of public participation in planning law. Public participation is a core principle of sustainable development and depends, to a great extent, on the availability of information. Whilst participation in planning is important, it is difficult to achieve.


The unit aims to:

Provide an overview of the legal, institutional and policy frameworks which structure and regulate decision-making concerning the environment

Investigate the role of law and regulation in securing environmental aims and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different regulatory mechanisms used in environmental law 

Develop an understanding of environmental law and its impact through the use of examples

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures (22 hours):

Each element of the course unit will be covered through interactive lectures with opportunities for small-group working and interaction in almost all lecture sessions, supported by asynchronous lectures and materials. Core themes are discussed in these sessions to allow discussion and application of knowledge and skills in small groups followed by plenary discussion.

Workshops (4 hours):

Specific support for the assignment is provided through workshop activities, where students are provided with advice on all aspects of assessment.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Explain the different sources of environmental law, using climate change as a case-study
  • Critically evaluate the importance of sustainable development as an environmental policy goal
  • Evaluate the nature of regulatory change, using ecological modernisation as a theoretical framework

Intellectual skills

  • Critically evaluate the range of legal and regulatory mechanisms that can be used to secure environmental protection aims, drawing upon examples to illustrate
  • Analyse the principle of public participation in planning law

Practical skills

  • Assemble relevant information and subject it to critical legal analysis
  • Engage in and cultivate reasoned legal and policy arguments

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop research skills in a legal context
  • Develop written reasoned arguments

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

Within 15 working days via Turnitin 

Recommended reading

J. Holder and M. Lee, Environmental Protection, Law and Policy: Text and Materials (CUP, 2nd ed, 2007)

R. Macrory, Regulation, Enforcement and Governance in Environmental Law (Hart Publishing, 2nd ed. 2014)

N. Gunningham, R. Kagan and D. Thornton, Shades of Green (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2003).

A. Mol, Sonnenfeld, D. And Spaargaren, G. The Ecological Modernisation Reader (Routledge, 2009).

M. Hajer The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process (Clarendon Press, 1997).

N. Carter, The Politics of the Environment (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Practical classes & workshops 4
Independent study hours
Independent study 176

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Gary Lynch-Wood Unit coordinator
Carolyn Abbot Unit coordinator

Return to course details