Environmental Law Theory and Practice - LAWS5850

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Autumn Term 6 15 (7.5) William Howarth checkmark-circle


The overall objective of the module is to provide an exposition of Environmental Law which seeks to assess the functioning of the law alongside the environmental problems that it seeks to address. Many of these problems admit scientific, economic and administrative responses as readily as legal ones. However, the underlying premise is that, alongside other disciplines, law has an essential part to play in the protection of the environment. Within law, various strategies that may be applied to environmental problems have different strengths and weaknesses. In each case the options must be reviewed and it must be asked, which is the most appropriate legal approach to a particular kind of environmental problem?

To some extent this eclectic perspective spans traditional legal boundaries emphasising features which may be overlooked in customary treatments of subjects such as criminal law, tort, administrative law and European Union law, but it is a subject which has a distinctive identity determined by the specific problems that the law seeks to address. Environmental Law seeks to examine and assess laws, of widely different kinds, from a uniquely environmental perspective. Taking the broadest possible view, it must be asked what legal mechanism is best used to restrict emissions causing deterioration in the quality of the three environmental media of water, air and land and how the law can provide appropriate redress for environmental harm.

Environmental Law I is broadly concerned with environmental quality law, particularly the different ways in which environmentally damaging activities are addressed through legal mechanisms. The module commences with a discussion of foundational issues concerning basic concepts in Environmental Law and the range of legal approaches that are adopted in national, European Union and international law. Thereafter, the main focus is on the protection of the environmental media of water, land and air to prevent pollution and to secure environmental quality objectives. The module concludes by examining some cross-cutting issues, such as enforcement, information access, participation and alternative strategies for environmental protection.


Contact hours

Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 130

Total Study Hours: 150

Method of assessment

13.1 Main assessment methods

The module will be assessed by 20% coursework and 80% examination OR 80% dissertation as follows:

Essay, (2000 words)_ - 20%
Examination (2 hours) - 80%
Short dissertation (5000 words) – 100%

13.2 Reassessment methods

The module will be reassessed by like-for-like reassessment of failed individual component(s) of assessment.

Indicative reading

• Alder and Wilkinson, Environmental Law and Ethics (Macmillan)
• Bell, and others, Environmental Law (Oxford)
• Fisher, Lange and Scotford, Environmental Law: Text, Cases and Materials (Oxford)
• McEldowney and McEldowney, Environmental Law (Longman)
• Wolf and Stanley, On Environmental Law (Cavendish)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a sound understanding of environmental quality law and the law relating to pollution control, and the role of international, EU and national law in relation to this.
2. Demonstrate a detailed appreciation of the role of law in giving effect to environmental policy objectives, alongside other disciplines, and be able to offer critical evaluation of the role of the law in addressing environmental challenges.
3. Demonstrate research skills in locating and retrieving legal and policy sources and using these effectively in written work.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module, students will be able to:

1. Understand complex legislative material and judicial decisions; to analyse complex issues and problems; and critically relate the issues to their wider socio-economic context.
2. Present critical and research-substantiated arguments in essays.
3. Recognise alternative solutions to legal problems and to evaluate these; to develop critical and self-critical learning skills; and to reflect upon learning progress.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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