Environmental Law

This course is an introduction to the subject of environmental law and covers the main areas of substantive UK (with the focus on England) and – as far as applicable - EU environmental law. Environmental law is concerned with the law relating to the protection of the environment and includes areas such as planning law, pollution control law, nature conservation, environmental impact assessment as well as waste law which have been significantly shaped in the past also by EU law, such as the provisions on the free movement of goods. Environmental law therefore builds on the core subjects of Administrative Law and EU law. It also applies legal concepts from other areas such as criminal law and tort law.

The course will take into consideration the socio-political context in which environmental law operates and it will explore the innovative, complex and ever expanding case law and legislation on the subject.

A major theme of the course is an exploration of the type of challenges that environmental problems provide for law and legal reasoning. In the last decade environmental law has given rise to difficult legal questions including:

  • what should be the rights of citizens to legally challenge ‘public’ environmental decision-making?

  • what should be the limits of discretion placed on administrative decision-makers in their pursuit of environmental protection?

  • how should environmental protection be balanced with other social and economic goals?

  • what are the best means of achieving environmental protection?

Learning Outcomes: knowledge of the substantive  legal aspects of environmental law in the UK; understanding of the complexity of environmental problems and how that complexity affects the application of the law; knowledge of how environmental law relates to core legal areas, particularly administrative law and EU law where relevant.

In the light of Brexit the course will provide a really interesting opportunity to think about the direction that environmental law in the UK may and can take in the future. Will a distinct ‘UK approach’ towards environmental law (re-)emerge, despite the fact that environmental law in the UK in the past has been significantly shaped by both general and specific EU environmental and energy law?