LL4A6      Half Unit
Climate Change and International Law

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Stephen Humphreys


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Environmental Policy and Regulation, MSc in Environmental Policy, Technology and Health (Environmental Policy and Regulation) (LSE and Peking University), MSc in Human Rights and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places and we cannot guarantee all students will get a place.

Course content

This course covers international law in relation to climate change with a view to assessing how the harms and burdens associated with climate change are governed and allocated in different legal regimes. The course adopts the stance that the political and ethical questions raised by climate change cannot be addressed by reference to climate change law or international environmental law alone. Climate change gives rise to a series of profound problems touching upon a range of bodies of law (trade, human rights, migration, state responsibility) in a complex political and ethical environment. In approaching climate change as a concrete concern relevant to these various bodies of law and practice, the course will address the normative bases for choosing between actions designed to prevent and/or manage climate change and its consequences, given developmental imperatives and the concerns raised by the 'fragmented' nature of international law. Projected seminars include: climate change science, politics and ethics; the theory of international law; international environmental law; trade law; human rights law; migration law. The course includes two case studies, from among the following: climate technology transfer; carbon markets; food security.


This course will have two hours of teaching content each week in Lent Term, either in the form of a two hour seminar or an online lecture and one hour class. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Lent Term.

Formative coursework

One 1,800 word essay to be submitted by the end of week 6.

Indicative reading

IPCC, Fifth Assessment Report, Cambridge UP (2013-14); IPCC, Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degree C (2018); Rosemary Rayfuse and Shirley Scott (eds), International Law in the Era of Climate Change, Edward Elgar (2011); Stephen Gardiner, Simon Caney, Dale Jamieson and Henry Shue (eds), Climate Ethics: Essential Readings, Oxford UP (2010); Stephen Humphreys (ed.), Climate Change and Human Rights, Cambridge UP (2010); Larry Lohmann, Carbon Trading, Dag Hammerskjöld Foundation (2006); Margaret Young (ed.), Regime Interaction in International Law: Facing Fragmentation, Cambridge UP (2012).


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the summer exam period.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2020/21: 28

Average class size 2020/21: 14

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills