Environmental Law Theory and Practice - LAWS5850

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 6 15 (7.5) Andreas Kotsakis 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 Theory and Practice I is broadly concerned with environmental quality law, particularly the different ways in which environmentally damaging activities are addressed through legal mechanisms. The interest in environmental quality and pollution control is not merely limited to contemporary issues but includes an interest in understanding how legal responses to these problems have developed over time since the Industrial Revolution, and consideration as to whether they are currently and will continue to be fit for purpose in rising to current challenges. The module opens with a discussion of how we might define and understand the character of environmental law, following this question through the historical development of contemporary environmental law across the public / private divide and across jurisdictions from the UK through the EU towards the influences of international agreements. This is undertaken through examination of how protection the three environmental media: water, land and air has developed since industrialisation. The module finishes with consideration of cross-cutting issues such as enforcement, and through revisiting the initial question as to how we might define and understand the character of environmental law with reference to current challenges such as climate change, and radically alternative proposals for visions of the future of environmental law.


Contact hours

Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 130
Total Study Hours: 150


All Law undergraduate courses. Environmental Law Theory and Practice is available as an elective module.

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

The module will be assessed by 100% coursework or 100% dissertation as follows:

Coursework – Short Essay (1250 words) - 20%
Coursework – Essay (3500 words) – 80%

Students must pass the 80% 'Essay' element in order to pass the module overall.


Dissertation (6000 words) – 100%

Reassessment methods

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 written work.
3. Recognise alternative solutions to legal issues and to evaluate these.


  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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