LAW 7040 - International Environmental Law (PG)

North Terrace Campus - Quadmester 4 - 2019

This course examines the role and effectiveness of international law in addressing global environmental problems in the Anthropocene. This course not only addresses relevant legal principles, concepts and obligations but also the scientific, political, economic and social dimensions of global environmental issues. The course also enables evaluation of the effectiveness of international environmental law in terms of its implementation and enforceability. Specific topics will include: - An overview of global environmental problems in the context of planetary boundaries and the Anthropocene; - Key principles of International Environmental Law - The challenges of developing, enforcing and implementing international law; - Climate change - Transboundary watercourses - Biodiversity and nature's contributions to people - Polar governance - The Law of the Sea - International Environmental Law Futures (Scenarios) - Human rights and the environment - Regime interaction and implementation

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code LAW 7040
    Course International Environmental Law (PG)
    Coordinating Unit Adelaide Law School
    Term Quadmester 4
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Intensive
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites Students without a Bachelor of Laws must have completed LAW 7177
    Assessment Abstract,Seminar Presentation, Seminar participation (20%); Group presentation (scenarios) (15%); and 5,500 word essay (65%)
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Michelle Lim

    Dr Michelle Lim
    Ph: 8313 0573
    Room 3.08, Ligertwood Building (Adelaide Law School)

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
    1) Describe the planetary boundaries concept and the impacts of global environmental change in the current geological epoch of the Anthropocene;

    2) Explain the sources of international environmental law and the content of international environmental law in the areas of climate change, biodiversity, water, oceans, polar regions, sustainable development and human rights;

    3) Analyze the complexity of interactions across international environmental regimes and between other international regimes;

    4) Describe how international environmental law is developed and implemented and critique the effectiveness of implementation regimes and institutions;

    5) Assess whether international environmental law is fit for purpose in the Anthropocene;

    6) Develop and execute original interdisciplinary research on a focused area of international environmental law.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Philippe Sands & Jacqueline Peel, “Principles of international Environmental Law” 4th  ed., Cambridge University Press, 2018

    Recommended Resources

    During the course there will be references to various sources, particularly on internet websites which students may find useful. Some of the more commonly used sites are listed below.

    U.N.Treaty Collection:

    This site contains copies of all UN treaties together with data on which countries are signatories, date of operation, amendments etc

    Treaties Database:
    This is an online resource maintained by the Australian Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade for researching treaties to which Australia is a signatory or where Australia has taken other treaty action.

    The United Nations Information Portal on Multilateral Environmental Agreements:
    This is a very useful website. Materials from this website will be used to supplement information provide in class. 

    Other Texts (Most of these are available in the Law Library. The library has an extensive collection of other international environmental law texts. You are not expected to read all or indeed any of these suggested texts. They are provided though as helpful resources for understanding the course and delving into the research topic)

    Fitzmaurice, M., Ong, D.M. and Merkouris, P., Research Handbook on International Environmental Law, Edward Elgar 2010. 
    A very helpful reference with 30 contributors. Covers a extensive array of topics on International Environmental Law. 

    Voight, C., Sustainable Development as a Principle of International Law - Resolving Conflicts Between Climate Measures and WTO Law, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2009. 
    A must read for anyone interested in the evolution of the concept of sustainable development. 

    Rothwell, D.R., Kaye, S., Akhtarkhavari, A. and Davis, R. International Law, Cases and Materials with Australian Perspectives. Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn. 2004. 
    Very useful particular for those who do not have prior grounding in international law. While not specifically focused on international environmental law there is a dedicated international environmental law section. The implications for Australia contained within the book are particularly relevant for this course. 

    David Hunter, James Salzman, and Durwood Zaelke, International Environmental Law and Policy, 4th  edition, Foundation Press (Thomson Reuters in Australia), 2011

    Ulrich Beyerlin & Thilo Marauhn, International Environmental Law, Hart Publishing Ltd, 2011

    Online Learning
    Additional web-links, further resources, assessment, important messages, topic notes, power point slides, case studies and other materials relating to the course will be placed on MyUni for the purposes of the course. MyUni can be found at

    You should check the International Environmental law course link on MyUni regularly. Any announcements during the intensive will also be posted on MyUni and emailed to all students listed in the course.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Learning and Teaching Activities amounting to 24 hours (across lecture, seminar and structured learning activity formats) will be offered to students in this course. This will occur at intensive schools on 10-11 October and 24-25 October.

    In addition, materials and instruction will be provided online to prepare students for the intensive school and for assessment. Content, delivery and assessment is aligned to enable students to achieve course and programme outcomes.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    The University expects full-time students (i.e. those taking 12 units per semester) to devote a total of 48 hours per week to their studies.

    Therefore, from Week 1, students are expected to spend an average of 12 hours a week on this course. This includes working through the readings and online materials provided each week and preparing for assessment tasks.
    Learning Activities Summary
    This course combines online self-directed learning with intensive schools which extend across 4-days (10am-4pm, 10-11 October  & 24-25 October).

    The course is divided into 12 topics. With the exception of Week 1, which is comprised of 3 topics, two topics will be available online each week from Weeks 1-4. Students are expected to have engaged with this material prior to the first intensive school (10-11 October). Students will engage with Topic 10 (Environmental Law Futures –Scenarios) at the Intensive School. Students are expected to familiarise themselves with Topics 11 and 12 in Week 6. From Week 8 onwards students are expected to work on their assessment. The course coordinator will be available to respond to comments during this time.

    Week 1 Topic 1: The Anthropocene
                Topic 2: Fundamentals of International Law
    Week 2 Topic 3: The Research Process

    Week 3 Topic 4: Climate Change

    Week 4 Topic 5: The Law of Transboundary Watercourses

    Week 5 Topic 6: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
    Week 6 Topic 7: Polar Governance

    Week 7 Topic 8: Sustainable Development
    Week 8 Topic 9: Human Rights and the Environment

    Week 9 Intensive School 10-11 October 2019
               Topic 10: Environmental Law Futures (Scenarios)

    Week 10 Topic 11: The Law of the Sea

    Week 11 Intensive School - 24-25 October 2019
                 Topic 12: Regime interaction and implementation

  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary

    There are three (3) components of assessment for this course. Each part of the assessment scheme is compulsory. This means that if any one of the items of assessment is not undertaken/submitted, the marks assigned for that assessment will be irrevocably lost, and the final mark obtainable will be reduced by that amount.

    Assessment Task Task Type Due Weighting Length Redeemable Course Learning Outcome
    Abstract (5%),
    Seminar Presentation (10%)
    and Participation (5%)

    Abstract: 14 October 2019

    Participation: 10-11 October; 24-25 October

    25 October 2019

    20 Abstract: 300 words

    Seminar: 15 minutes
    No 1,2,5,4,6 (depending on chosen topic could also include 3)
    Group Submission and Presentation on Environmental Law Futures (Scenarios)  Group Submission: 23 October 2019

    Group Presentation: 24 October 2019
    15 No 1-5
    Research Essay  Individual 15 November 2019 65 5500 words No 1,2,5,4,6 (depending on chosen topic could also include 3)
    Assessment Detail
    There are three (3) components of assessment for this course. Each part of the assessment scheme is compulsory.
    This means that if any one of the items of assessment is not undertaken/submitted, the marks assigned for that assessment will be irrevocably lost, and the final mark obtainable will be reduced by that amount.

    1) Abstract (5%), Seminar Presentation (10%) and Participation (5%) (total = 20% of the final result)
    This group of assessment tasks not only help students to deliver a high quality final written assignment but also familiarise students with the academic research process.

    Abstract (5%)  300 words
    The abstract should include the title of the final written assignment; a few sentences which set out the background and context of the research topic; a clear research question; preliminary arguments and conclusion.

    It is normal for thinking to evolve throughout the research process. Marks will NOT be deducted if the title (or even the content) of the final assignment differs from the submitted abstract. The writing of the abstract enables students to consolidate preliminary thinking about the written assignment and allows the course coordinator to guide students towards undertaking a manageable research project.

    Seminar Presentation (10%) 
    Effective communication is an essential skill in research. A workshop consisting of 10 minute seminars from all students will be held on the final afternoon of the intensive school. The workshop will allow students to develop academic communication skills, share their research with their peers and receive important feedback for their final written assignment.

    Seminar Participation (5%) 
    Collegiality is an important part of research. Students will be assessed on their ability to engage constructively with their peers. This process will also enhance students' broad understanding of a range of international environmental law topics.

    2) Group Submission and Presentation on Environmental Law Futures (Scenarios) (15% of the final result)
    The uncertainty and surprise which characterises environmental governance in the Anthropocene requires the design of international environmental law which is fit for purpose in a range of different possible futures.

    Students will be provided with descriptions of a range of possible futures. From this they will be required to examine interactions across various international treaty regimes and the extent to which current international environmental law is adequate to acheive a desirable and sustainable future. Students will also consider what changes (e.g. legal, institutional, economic, social etc.) need to be made today to acheive the desired sustainable future of tomorrow.

    Students will work in groups of 3. At the 1st intensive school students will choose their group members. Students will be required to convene prior to the 2nd intensive school and to submit an outline of their conclusions . At the second intensive school, each group will jointly present the findings of the group to other members of the class.

    3) Written Assignment (65% of the final result) 

    This assessment provides students with the opportunity to develop deep disciplinary knowledge in a chosen area of international environmental law and to consider the effectiveness of international environmental law in an era of global environmental change. The assignment assesses students' research, written communication and critical thinking skills.

    Students must submit a 5500 word essay on a topic to be selected from a list of topics provided by the course coordinator at the commencement of the course. Students will be required to discuss their chosen topic through the lens of whether current international environmental law covering that subject area is fit for purpose in the Anthropocene.

    Assignments must be submitted electronically through Turnitin and will be marked electronically and returned via the same medium. Instructions on how to lodge all assessment documents through Turnitin will be provided at the start of the course.

    Assessment Criteria
    Assignments will be assesed based on the following:
    • The extent to which the paper engages with the task and provides ways forward for environmental law in the Anthropocene;
    • Whether the paper has a clearly defined research question;
    • Whether the topic and or argument are novel;
    • How coherent the of thesis (argument) is;
    • The depth of analysis and level of critical examination of the issues raised;
    • Clarity of expression;
    • Logical planning, structure and sequence;
    • Evidence of comprehensive research and engagement with the relevant literature;
    • The student demonstrates understanding of relevant legal materials;
    • Correct application of relevant material
    • Overall presentation, including correct grammar, spelling and punctuation
    • Use of resources in formulating the paper including proper acknowledgment and correct

    Fail 0 – 49
    Does not develop coherent and rational arguments; demonstrates fundamental errors of understanding of key legal principles and concepts; little evidence of research to support arguments; demonstrates limited analytical and evaluative skills

    Pass 50 – 64
    Demonstrates a basic understanding of the relevant legal material eg legislation, cases and treaties; applies core texts and materials; arguments rational and coherent; adheres to referencing requirements

    Credit 65 – 74
    Demonstrates a high level of understanding of the relevant legal materials; has a thorough understanding of course materials; arguments are well constructed with appropriate supporting referencing; demonstrates some critical legal thinking and evaluative skills

    Distinction 75 – 84
    A very high standard of understanding of the relevant legal materials with some original and sophisticated perspectives included; paper demonstrates high level insight; broad ranging research undertaken; evidence of high level of critical thinking; well developed analytical and evaluative skills

    High Distinction 85 - 100
    Outstanding level of understanding and interpretation demonstrated; arguments are compelling and well supported by relevant authorities; the student has undertaken broad ranging research and demonstrated original and sophisticated thinking especially in relation to difficult areas of legal application; highly developed written communication skills demonstrated.

    Students choosing to use this course to satisfy the requirements of the substantial research piece of scholarship for their program must undertake the required disciplinary research and produce a 7,000 - 8,000 word essay which will be assessed against publication standards. This essay will replace the above mentioned research essay.

    Standard Adelaide Law School penalties re: late submissions and papers which exceed the word limits.
    Standard Adelaide Law School submission requirements apply. Specific information will be provided in the assessment instructions for each item of assessment.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Approval of Results by Board of Examiners
    Students are reminded that all assessment results are subject to approval (and possible  moderation/change) by the Law School’s Board of Examiners. Assessment  results at the University are not scaled. Under the Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy, students are assessed ‘by reference to their performance against pre-determined criteria and standards … and not by ranking against the performance of the student cohort in the course’. However, under that same policy, the Board of Examiners (as the relevant Assessment Review Committee for courses at Adelaide Law School) is  required to ‘ensure comparability of standards and consistency’ in assessment. On occasions, the Board of Examiners will form the view that some moderation is required to ensure the comparability of standards and consistency across courses and years, and accordingly provide fairness to all law students. All assessment results are therefore subject to approval (and possible change) until confirmed by the Board of Examiners and posted on Acess Adelaide at the end of each semester.

    Finality of Assessment Grades

    Students are advised that Course Coordinators will not enter into negotiations of any kind with any student regarding changes to their grades. It is irrelevant, in any given circumstance, that only a minimal number of additional marks are required to inflate a student’s grade for any individual assessment item or course as a whole. Pursuant to the University’s Assessment for Coursework
    Programs Policyand the Adelaide Law School Assessment Policies and Procedures, grades may only be varied through the  appropriate channels for academic review (such as an official re-mark).


    In accordance with the University’s Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy, course coordinators ‘ensure that appropriate marking guidelines and cross-marking moderation processes across markers are in place’ in each course. Procedures adopted by Adelaide Law School to ensure consistency of marking in courses with multiple markers include:

    *assurance of the qualifications of markers, and their knowledge of the content covered in each course;
    *detailed marking guidelines and assessment rubrics to assist in the marking of items of assessment;
    *sharing of example marked assessments at various grade bands across markers;
    *reviewing of selected marked assessments from each marker by the course coordinator;
    *comparison of the marks and their distribution across markers;
    *automatic double-marking of all interim assessment receiving a fail grade, and of final assessments where a student’s overall result is a fail grade;
    *the availability of re-marking of assessments in accordance with Adelaide Law School’s Assessment Policies and Procedures.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
    The University Writing Centre provides academic learning and language development services and resources for local, international, undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students enrolled at the University of Adelaide.

    The centre offers practical advice and strategies for students to master reading, writing, note-taking, time management, oral presentation skills, referencing techniques and exam preparation for success at university through seminars, workshops and individual consultations.

    Lex Salus Program
    Lex Salus (law and wellbeing) is an initiative of the Adelaide Law School aimed at destigmatising mental health issues; promoting physical, mental and emotional wellness; building a strong community of staff and students; and celebrating diversity within the school. It also seeks to promote wellness within the legal profession, through the involvement of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia, the Honourable Chris Kourakis, as the official Patron of the program.

    Students can participate in the Lex Salus program by attending barbecue lunches, pancake breakfasts, knitting and crochet circles, seminars, guest speakers, conferences and other activities. Our Facebook page, website and regular all-student emails promote upcoming events, and have tips and information on wellness.

    Our Lex Salus YouTube channel also includes videos on topics like managing stress, and interviews with LGBTQ lawyers and their supporters which celebrate diversity and individuality. Students who commit to 10 hours of volunteering with Lex Salus in one year can have their service recognised on their academic transcript and through a thank you morning tea with the Chief Justice and law school staff.

    Student Life Counselling Support
    The University’s Student Life Counselling Support service provides free and confidential service to all enrolled students. We encourage you to contact the Student Life Counselling Support service on 8313 5663 to make an appointment to deal with any issues that may be affecting your study and life.
  • Policies & Guidelines

    This section contains links to relevant assessment-related policies and guidelines - all university policies.

    Academic Honesty
    Academic dishonesty is a serious act of academic misconduct. All students must be familiar with the University’s Academic Honesty Policy.

    Academic dishonesty is a serious matter and is treated as such by the Law School and the University. Academic dishonesty (which goes beyond plagiarism) can be a ground for a refusal by the Supreme Court of South Australia to admit a person to practice as a legal practitioner in South Australia.

    Academic honesty is an essential aspect of ethical and honest behaviour, which is central to the practice of the law and an understanding of what it is to be a lawyer.
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.