620280 :GLB: Environmental Law

General info

Instruction language English
Type of Instruction Lecture (No data available yet)
Type of exams Paper
paper (individual or in small groups)
(Examination schedule)
Course load:6 ECTS credits
Registration:This course will not be offered during academic year 2017-2018
Blackboard Infonot available in Blackboard


prof. dr. C.J. Bastmeijer

A. Neumann


On completion of the course, the student:
  • has knowledge of the main principles of international environmental law;
  • has knowledge of some important international environmental conventions;
  • is aware of the relevance of these principles and conventions for the Polar Regions;
  • has knowledge on the main characteristics of the international governance systems for the Arctic and Antarctic;
  • has experience with writing an academic paper;
  • hopefully: has enjoyed the course and is enthusiastic about certain themes in the field of international environmental law and the Polar Regions.


This course provides an overview of the contents of and developments in international environmental law. Within this broad field of law, a selection has been made of themes that have particular relevance for the Polar Regions (the Antarctic & the Arctic). These regions, particularly the Arctic, have become important geopolitical regions and many of the global environmental challenges are particularly relevant to the Polar Regions (e.g., climate change adaptation, prevention of POP pollution). Furthermore, the Antarctic and Arctic provide excellent opportunities to discuss with students themes such as the No Harm principle, the relevant of transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (e.g., for mining activities), issues relating to environmental protection and the rights and traditions of indigenous people, jurisdictional issues, and different cultural perspectives on nature conservation (e.g., the Western concept of wilderness protection in relation to the perspectives of Inuit). Thus, while special emphasis is put on the relevance and status of international environmental law in the Polar Regions, most discussions are also relevant to other parts of the world. The approach taken in this course will also stimulate the students to acknowledge and appreciate the interrelationships between law and policy and between law and other research disciplines (anthropology, ecology and philosophy). As a consequence, the course will not follow the structure of most handbooks on international environmental law.

Theme's that receive attention include:

* Introduction to set the scene for discussing the role of law in environmental protection: A comparison of the modern Western society with the traditional Inuit Culture on three themes that are relevant from the perspective of sustainable development:
a) Human - nature relationship;
b) Relationship between individual interests and communal interests; and
c) Accumulation of human use of natural resources.

* The ideal of sustainable development and the main principles of international environmental law, such as the no harm principle, the precautionary principle, the polluter-pays-principle, and other principles. What is the content of these principles, what legal status do these principles have and to what extent are these principles relevant for the international governance systems of the Polar Regions?

* Environmental impact assessment (EIA): This instrument will be discussed with an emphasis on EIA in a transboundary context. What is the aim of this instrument and how has it developed in international environmental law? Has the instrument been codified in international environmental agreements and soft-law instruments that are relevant for the governance of the Polar Regions? And what can we learn from the practice of EIA?

* The Convention on Biological Diversity (contents, COPs, 2020 objectives, etc.) and the various other international nature conservation agreements (e.g., Bonn Convention, Ramsar (Wetland) Convention). What is the relevance of these agreements for the Polar Regions?

* The role of law in protecting Polar `wilderness'. What are 'wilderness values'? Do these values receive attention in international environmental law instruments? And how does wilderness protection relate to the position of indigenous people in the Arctic?

* Legal instruments that aim to address long range pollution (particularly persistent organic pollutants (POPs)) and climate change. What are the challenges of these environmental issues for the Polar Regions (particularly the Arctic) and what role does law play in addressing the concerns?

* Land use & property rights in the Polar Regions. Are the Polar Regions being divided into (private) property and, if so, how does this relate to the interests and traditions of indigenous people in the Arctic and to the conservation of the polar environmental and natural values? You are most welcome and I hope you will find this program interesting.


Exchange students please contact the Exchange coordinator, Nicolas Bohórquez Cortés for more information on how to enrol for this course.

This course will not be offered during academic year 2017-2018

Recommended Reading

  1. Ulrich Beyerlin and Thilo Marauhn, International Environmental Law, Hart/CH Bek/Nomos, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84113-924-1.

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