Law of Climate Change

Course summary

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges for humanity and the Earth’s ecosystems alike. In early 2014 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has further confirmed in several reports our failure in reducing greenhouse gasses emissions, as well as in adapting livelihoods and ecosystems to the adverse effects of future global warming.

Climate change is also a multifaceted issue that brings to reconsider the economic, political, technological and philosophical paths of our increasingly globalized society: law is a necessary part of this complex puzzle.

This course explores the law concerning global, anthropogenic climate change, the legal solutions that have sought to address it, and the most recent legal and policy challenges. This is an area of regulation that has developed most influentially in the realm of Public International Law in the form of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol, as well as the ongoing negotiations in those fora. After more than twenty years since the adoption of the UNFCCC in 1992, the international legal regime of climate change has branched off into numerous issue areas and related mechanisms for the implementation of mitigation (reducing greenhouse gasses emissions) and adaptation measures.

Indeed the Law of Climate Change spans from international states obligations on mitigation and adaptation, to marked-based mechanisms for carbon mitigation; from an international mechanism for avoiding deforestation in developing countries (REDD+), to strategic uses of international human rights for the purposes of climate protection. Each of these themes poses numerous questions, which you will address and debate.

Law of Climate Change is avowedly inter-disciplinary, drawing on insights from economics, ethics, international relations theory and the physical sciences. A feature of this course is its close relationship to fundamental research that is undertaken across the University.


  1. The international climate change regime and its sources
  2. UNFCCC: principles, institutions and processes
  3. UNFCCC: Conference of the Parties (COP) decisions and the roadmap to Paris 2015
  4. Kyoto Protocol: commitments, mechanisms and its future
  5. Kyoto Protocol: the Clean Development Mechanism and the non-compliance procedure
  6. Legal aspects of climate finance and the carbon market
  7. Climate change and international human rights
  8. Technology transfer and intellectual property rights
  9. Geoengineering and Carbon Capture and Storage
  10. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Avoided Degradation (REDD+)

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • Have a sound knowledge of the sources, processes and key issues of the international climate change regime and its current negotiations;
  • Understand the functioning of market-based mechanisms, the carbon market and their role in curbing emissions;
  • Navigate the relationship between the law of climate change and related disciplinary approaches, both within and outwith the social sciences;
  • Critically address some emerging climate mitigation technologies and approaches, and their legal regulation.


4000-word essay (60%); assessed course work (20%); participation in online activity (20%).

Terms and conditions

Please note the University reserves the right to make variations to the contents of programmes, including the range of courses offered, and the available choice of courses in any given year may change.

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