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Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance

Master of Law (LLM), Paper 15
MPhil in Environmental Policy, Modules EP03/EP05


Jorge E. Vinuales

Markus Gehring

The environmental problems increasingly understood and recognised since the late 1960s have been regulated on the international plane in two main forms. First, a set of broad policies (concepts and principles) have been developed and used as the basis of a now mature branch of international law, i.e. international environmental law. Such policies, which include prevention, precaution, polluter-pays, environmental impact assessment, participation, common but differentiated responsibilities, inter-generational equity or sustainable development, to name but a few, have provided the basis for the adoption of more specific legal regimes tackling particular problems (e.g. marine and freshwater pollution; atmospheric pollution, ozone depletion, climate change; species, habitat and biodiversity protection; chemical and hazardous waste regulation). Second, these policies are being increasingly mainstreamed within the broader body of public international law. From this second angle, the law of environmental protection is not a ‘branch’ but a ‘perspective’ increasingly influencing, if not shaping, most areas of international law. Such influence is particularly noticeable in human rights law, but also in international humanitarian law, trade law and, increasingly, in international investment law.

The first part of this course will focus on international environmental law as a ‘branch’, examining (1) its foundations (history and policies) and (2) their legal expression in the four main areas of international environmental regulation (oceans and freshwater, protection of the atmosphere, protection of biological and cultural diversity, regulation of dangerous substances and activities).

The second part of the course will analyse environmental protection as a perspective influencing the broader corpus of international law. It will first examine (3) implementation techniques (particularly compliance techniques and adjudication) and (4) the influence of environmental considerations on human rights, international humanitarian law, trade law, and investment law.

 Taken together, the two parts of this course provide a thorough graduate-level introduction to international environmental law enabling students either to go into practice or to conduct doctoral research on more specific environmental law questions.