Law and The Environment

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Veerle Heyvaert NAB7.06

Teacher responsible for 2016/2017: Dr Joana SETZER


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law, BSc in Environment and Development, BSc in Environmental Policy with Economics, BSc in International Relations and LLB in Laws. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The aim of this course is to study and understand how law can be used as a tool to pursue environmental goals and to think critically about law’s contribution to local and global environmental protection.


I. General features of environmental law in the UK:

The introductory sessions examine how we understand ‘the value of the environment’ as an object of legal protection, and how environmental law evolved through time. We study the notions of ‘risk’ and ‘precaution’ as key concepts of environmental regulation, and examine how the relationship between Parliament, the Government and the Environment Agency affects the effectiveness of environmental laws and rules in the UK.

II. Controlling space

This section reviews legal strategies for environmental protection through the management of the built environment, parks and nature. It covers planning law, environmental impact assessment, and nature conservation law.

III. Controlling climate change

Studies international law and politics of climate change, the UK approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and discusses the pros and cons of market-based regulation as a response to the climate change challenge.

IV. Controlling enterprise

Section IV looks at how environmental harm can be prevented or limited by regulating particular industries (such as heavily polluting industries and the waste treatment sector), by targeting particular products (such as dangerous chemicals), or by focusing on particular activities (such as international trade). We examine how environmental regulation aims to balance between restricting hazardous activities on the one hand, and fostering free enterprise on the other, and review the court’s role in adjusting this balance.

V. Remedying environmental harm

The final section examines the role of both case law and regulation in the remediation of environmental harm, paying attention to clean-up of contaminated land, common law and human rights based approaches to compensation, and legal responses to international environmental disasters.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

Week 6 MT and week 6 LT will be reading weeks. Essays or equivalent writing assignments will be set around reading week to allow students to dedicate time to writing skills.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to write a formative essay; answer a problem set in writing; and participate in a mock exam.

Indicative reading

There is no set book that covers the entire course, however, several sessions use Bell, McGillivray & Pedersen, Environmental Law (8th edition, Blackstone Press, 2013). A detailed reading list is provided for each seminar. Materials that are not sourced from Bell, McGillivray & Pedersen or Holder & Lee are made available on Moodle. A good alternative source is Fisher, Lange & Scotford, Environmental Law. Text, Cases and Materials, 2013. Useful introductory books include: Ashford & Caldart, Environmental Law, Policy and Economics, 2008; Lazarus, The Making of Environmental Law, 2004; Holder & Lee, Environmental Protection, Law & Policy, 2007; R Carson, Silent Spring, 1962; R Eckersley, Environmentalism and Political Theory, 1992.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2015/16: 21

Average class size 2015/16: 21

Capped 2015/16: Yes (25)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills