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Environmental Law - LAW00053H

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Jenny Steele
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

Environmental problems -- a warming planet, growing rubbish piles, the destruction of habitats and increasingly unbreathable air -- are amongst the most complex faced by today’s societies. These problems also pose multiple challenges for legal control and regulation. Ecosystems are understood only subject to significant scientific uncertainty and environmental issues as a whole tend to cross jurisdictional and disciplinary boundaries, involving problems of collective action often seemingly at odds with private interests and the generally anthropocentric approach of legal responses. How does the law respond to these challenges?


This module explores this vital area of law and addresses the struggle to achieve control of environmental problems against a backdrop of global politics and the more immediate regulatory issues surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU.



Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The aim of the module is to explore the role of law in responding to a variety of contemporary environmental problems; to appreciate the complex and distinctive nature of those problems; and the variety of jurisdictions, actors, and regulation involved in environmental governance. The complexity of environmental problems allows for the further development of a range of skills such as inter-disciplinary research in a multi-jurisdictional context.


Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Understand and critically evaluate the nature of environmental problems and the challenges they pose for law

  • Understand and critically evaluate the role of international, EU and national jurisdictions and a variety of governmental and non-governmental actors in addressing environmental problems and the development of environmental law

  • Reflect upon the emergence and effectiveness of range of regulatory styles and techniques

  • Understand and analyse the application of regulatory and institutional challenges in relation to a range of specific environmental problems such as climate change, waste, GMOs, and nature conservation

  • Develop well-reasoned, coherent and creative arguments drawing on a range of sources, producing original responses in both seminars and assessment

  • Communicate well-reasoned academic arguments both orally and in writing through communication of seminar and assessment tasks

  • Draw upon an awareness of relevant perspectives in relation to environmental law, for example drawing on different ethical, political, and social considerations

Module content

Introductory lecture: ‘Environmental law’

see e.g. Holder and Lee, Ch 1: Environmental law in Context / Chs 1 & 2 Fisher et al, ‘What is environmental law?’ and ‘Understanding environmental problems’).


Part 1: The Governance of Environmental Law

Seminar 1: Jurisdictions: International, EU, National (devolution) and Brexit

Seminar 2: Actors (eg H&L Ch 8, Part III; Fisher et al, may include corporations, ‘courts’ and private law)

Seminar 3: Regulatory strategy (e.g. FIsher et al ch 12, H&L Chs 9&10, Bell et al Ch 7)

Seminar 4: New governance/public participation (e.g. Fisher et al Ch 13, H&L Ch 3 and 11


Part 2: Sectoral coverage / case studies - these are indicative and may change depending on current issues

Seminar 5: Climate change and air pollution

Seminar 6: Waste

Seminar 7: GMOs/ EIA

Seminar 8: Conservation and biodiversity



Task Length % of module mark
3000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will be encouraged during seminars to offer and receive feedback on ideas shared with the group and to reflect upon the process of research, the concepts encountered, and evaluation of the sources they are using. Feedback will be received both from tutors, and from peers.


Task Length % of module mark
3000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback on assessment will be through written feedback within 20 working days of submission.

Indicative reading

  • Elizabeth Fisher, Bettina Lange and Eloise Scotford, Environmental Law: Text, Cases & Materials (2nd ed., OUP 2019) (available via OUP Law Trove).

  • Stuart Bell and others, Environmental Law (9th edn, OUP 2017) (available via OUP Law Trove).

  • Jane Holder and Maria Lee, Environmental Protection Law and Policy: Text and Materials (Cambridge University Press 2007).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.