Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)


Department: Law


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Introduction to English Law and Legal Method (LAW 1121) and Law of Torts (LAW1051)


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide a critical introduction to climate change as a common concern of humankind: a complex global challenge that intersects law, policy and science.
  • To provide an understanding of the role of science in law and policy making on climate change.
  • To provide a critical introduction to and a profound understanding of the contemporary political and legal response.
  • To understand climate change as part of international environmental law and as an area of law where different legal orders (international, regional, domestic) are closely linked.
  • To understand the wider socio-legal context in which climate law and policy is embedded, that includes aspects of energy law, an ecological perspective of climate impacts and an awareness of inter-state as well as inter-generational inequalities of the consequences of climate change.
  • To develop research skills and contextual awareness of how law might be most effectively used and developed to address global challenges.


  • This module explores the ability of the law to adequately respond to the challenges presented by climate change and the adverse effects of climate impacts.
  • Knowledge will be developed and applied through engagement with four topics (two in Michaelmas term and two in Epiphany term). Topics will change annually and could address a range of questions from the ethical, political, ecological and legal dimension of climate change, including the international and the national legal order. Examples of the topics that could be covered comprise the different national climate laws and landmark cases in climate litigation, international legal instruments on climate change such as the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, ethical considerations of climate impacts on existing inequalities, as well as the perspective of biodiversity loss through climate change and the role of ‘tipping points’.
  • The module will provide a unique opportunity for students to become engaged with Durham CELLS (Centre for Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences), as well as to develop a deep understanding of the interaction of different legal orders dealing with a common concern of humankind/global challenge and legal research skills to enhance student knowledge of legal sources and develop their ability to research the law.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the science, policy and law of climate change and legal research.
  • Demonstrate a familiarity with the relevant literature and the leading debates surrounding key issues across the four selected topics.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of selected areas of substantive law.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On the completion of the module, students will:
  • Have the critical awareness of how climate change law and policy issues may arise in practice.
  • Demonstrate a profound understanding of the relationship between climate science, international law on climate change and policy and domestic legislation.
  • Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the significance of climate law in its wider social context.
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to demonstrate developed independent research and writing skills, including the ability to work independently and to take responsibility for their own learning on a complex and fast-moving topic.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The teaching of this module will be by way of seminars supported by targeted reading assignments before each session. The readings are selected from both primary and secondary sources. Students will thus be given the opportunity to consolidate, develop, present and apply the knowledge acquired through independent study. The seminars will require students to display substantive knowledge, apply concepts learned, debate and develop a critical understanding of the subject.
  • Students will be encouraged to utilise the wide range of learning resources, including electronic sources, available within the university in order to make a contribution to their learning and assessment as well as to enable them to acquire key and subject-specific skills.
  • Students must submit formative essays that will assess knowledge and understanding relating to the teaching and their research. Formative assignment is used to prepare students for the summative assignment through both developing problem-solving skills in combination with the ability to engage in sustained evaluation of ideas and issues in Climate law and policy, and the ability to evaluate the law in a critical and contextual way.
  • Summative assessment comprises one summative essay of 6000 words, which will provide the means for students to demonstrate the acquisition of subject knowledge and the development of their problem-solving skills as well as the ability to critically evaluate the law in its wider context.
  • Students will be supported and encouraged in the development of their research and writing skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
seminars 12 Normally six in each of Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms 2 hrs 24
preparation and reading 176

Summative Assessment

Component: essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
summative essay 6,000 words 100% N

Formative Assessment:

Two essays of 2,000 words each, with the recommendation to submit at least one formative essay.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University