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Unit information: Environmental Law in 2017/18

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Environmental Law
Unit code LAWDM0013
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Pieraccini
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit examines the legal techniques available to protect the environment in the context of our rapidly developing understanding of sustainability as a global environmental issue and key concepts such as the precautionary principle. Through an examination of both regulatory and market based approaches, the effectiveness of current techniques is considered. From a consideration of these common themes the unit then explores particular environmental issues and sectors. The focus is upon European Community and domestic responses, but placed in their international law context.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, successful students will be able to critically understand and explain:

  1. key rules, principles and perspectives of environmental law
  2. regulation and rights-based approaches to environmental law c) international and European legal provisions of a selected number of environmental sectors

In relation to:

  1. the perspective of sustainable development, environmental principles and ethical perspectives on the environment. In relation to
  2. the regulatory techniques (command and control regulation, market-based instrument, reflexive environmental regulation and smart regulation) and rights-based approaches to environmental protection (from the 'environmental' jurisprudence of the ECtHR, to the procedural rights of the Aarhus Convention and from individual human rights to rights of groups, such as indigenous peoples' rights and rights to non-human beings). Students should be able to explore the links between regulation and rights-based approaches.
  3. international and European legal provisions on environmental assessment, environmental liability, nature conservation law and climate change law.

Students should be also able to state the law accurately, to develop their own perspective on the issues covered in the teaching programme, to identify key principles and aspects of complex statutory regimes, to practice doctrinal research skills, to think critically about ways in which the law could be reformed and to embed the discussions in theoretical analyses.

The summative essays are designed to assess students' research skills, their ability to critically engage with the conceptual issues and to understand and develop their perspective on the intersections between environmental law, rights and regulation.

Teaching details

This unit is taught by way of 20 lectures (approx.), 10 two-hour seminars and 2 assessment preparation and feedback sessions. Lectures are delivered jointly to students on the related undergraduate unit.

Assessment Details

Summative: 2 x 3000 word essays (50% each) will assess the candidate's ability to research a topic within the scope of this unit. Both assessments will assess all of the Intended Learning Outcomes for this unit in the context of topics selected by the examiners.

Formative: students should do one formative assessment (this will usually be 1 x 1500 word essay).

Reading and References

A list of reading will be provided in the unit handbook for each seminar.

Useful textbooks are below:

  • Bell, McGillivray and Pedersen Enviromental Law (2013 OUP),
  • Lee, EU Environmental Law Governance and Decision-Making (2014 Hart),
  • Sands and Peel, Principles of International Environmental Law (2012 CUP).
  • Fisher, Lange and Scotford, Environmental Law: Text, Cases and Materials (2013, OUP)