GV4L2      Half Unit
The Politics and Policy of Climate Change and Sustainability

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael Lerner


This course is available on the MSc in Political Science (Conflict Studies and Comparative Politics), MSc in Political Science (Global Politics), MSc in Political Science (Political Science and Political Economy), MSc in Public Policy and Administration and MSc in Regulation. This course is not available as an outside option.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access) and demand is typically very high. This course is capped at 2 groups.


A basic understanding of the physical science of climate change would be advantageous.

Course content

This course introduces students to the policy interventions and underlying political dynamics that shape the pace and direction of efforts to mitigate to climate change and transition toward sustainability.

The course provides a survey of core and emerging topics in environmental politics and policy, such as climate obstruction, environmental authoritarianism, and the governance of geoengineering. A unifying theme of the course will be its frequent attention to the political economy of climate (in)action. This course focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on domestic environmental politics in advanced industrialized democracies.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the WT.

There will be a reading week in Week 6 of the Winter Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the WT.

Indicative reading

  • Bernstein, Steven, and Matthew Hoffmann. “Climate politics, metaphors and the fractal carbon trap.” Nature Climate Change 9.12 (2019): 919-925.
  • Seto, Karen C., et al. “Carbon lock-in: Types, causes, and policy implications.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 41 (2016): 425-452.
  • Parris, Thomas M., and Robert W. Kates. “Characterizing a sustainability transition: Goals, targets, trends, and driving forces.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100.14 (2003): 8068-8073.
  • Meckling, Jonas. “Oppose, Support, or Hedge? Distributional Effects, Regulatory Pressure, and Business Strategy in Environmental Politics.” Global Environmental Politics 15.2 (2015): 19-37.
  • Stroup, Sarah S., and Wendy H. Wong. The Authority Trap. Cornell University Press (2017). Chapter 1.
  • Finnegan, Jared J. “Institutions, climate change, and the foundations of long-term policymaking.” Comparative Political Studies (2022).
  • Baldwin, Elizabeth, Sanya Carley, and Sean Nicholson-Crotty. “Why do countries emulate each other’s policies? A global study of renewable energy policy diffusion.” World Development 120 (2019): 29-45.
  • Stokes, Leah C. Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle over Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the American States. Oxford University Press (2020). Chapter 1.


Video (20%) in the WT.
Policy report (80%) in the ST.

Students will create two 4–6 minute video blog posts interpreting a recent event through the lens of course material (one in the first five weeks of the term, one in the last five weeks of the term, 9 opportunities total), of which one will be submitted for assessment.

The assessed policy report will have a word limit of 3000 words.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2022/23: 14

Average class size 2022/23: 14

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills