PIR-20064 - International Relations of the Environment
Coordinator: David C Scrivener Room: CBA2.032 Tel: +44 1782 7 33212
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 5
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office:

Programme/Approved Electives for 2017/18

Biology Single Honours (Level 5)
International Relations Dual Honours (Level 5)
International Relations Major (Level 5)
International Relations Minor (Level 5)
International Relations Single Honours (Level 5)
Politics Dual Honours (Level 5)
Politics Major (Level 5)
Politics Minor (Level 5)
Politics Single Honours (Level 5)

Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2017/18

As a global society of increasingly interdependent states, the world faces numerous problems stemming from the depletion of natural resources such as fish, forests, hydrocarbons and water and the deterioration of various aspects of the natural environment. Most of these are examples of common problems (we all independently experience them to varying degrees) or also shared problems (what each of us does or doesn't do about them affects how they are experienced by others). This poses many challenges for the development of national and international policies that will effectively address the global environmental agenda.
Through a detailed examination of a selection of international environmental issue areas, students are introduced to some of the key analytical themes from the academic literature on the international relations of the environment. This enables students to analyse a number of common or shared conservation and environmental protection challenges that many states and parts of the world face, and to critically evaluate the proposed solutions.
The issues and themes covered in the module usually include: how issues get on the international environmental agenda; the environment in international affairs; the contribution of the discipline of IR to understanding international environmental affairs; patterns of sovereignty and jurisdiction affecting transboundary resources and pollutants; actors, factors and effectiveness in international environmental regimes; environment and security; the International Whaling Regime; The African Elephant in international trade; high seas fisheries; tropical rainforests; the ozone layer; climate change; trade and the environment. Other topics which sometimes feature in the module include: Antarctica; the deep seabed; the global trade in hazardous waste; persistent organic pollutants.
There are 15 one-hour lectures. Each tutorial group meets fortnightly for a total of 5 one-hour sessions. Students work in teams to coordinate their class contributions as well as working individually on the topics which especially interest them, further developing their ability to conduct research using a variety of sources in order to analyse some of the policy problems encountered in the quest for ecologically sustainable development.
In the 2012-13 academic session, the sequence of lecture topics will probably be as follows:
The environment in world politics
The environment in the discipline of International Relations: prominent approaches
The environment and security
Global health and security
Actors, factors and effectiveness in environmental cooperation
Governance and the commons
The tragedy of the commons
Governing the seas: the sea in international politics and international law
Fisheries: the high seas and straddling stocks
Sustainable use of wildlife, a tenuous concept? The cases of the Great Whales and African Elephants
The politics of risk: biosafety in global politics
Biopiracy: biodiversity and equity at the global level
The Battle of Seattle: the environment and international trade in the globalising world
Saving the ozone layer
The mother of all battles: the development of the global climate change regime.
The tutorials are usually organised around the analysis of the following areas in the International Relations of the Environment:
1. Introduction to the subject and the format of the module
2. Environment and security
3. New frontiers and the management of new commons: the oceans, the deep seabed and Antarctica
4. Managing the conservation and exploitation of transboundary resources: the case of the Great Whales
5. The atmosphere: international cooperation to save the ozone layer and combat climate change.

The final module mark is based upon the following: short oral presentation to the class (10%); 2,000 word essay (40%); 2-hour unseen written examination (50%).

1. To enable students to analyse the problems of sustaining the global commons and to appreciate the contribution of the International Relations discipline to this challenge.
2. To enable students to develop a critical perspective on the debates surrounding the scope, direction and depth of international policy in the contentious environmental and conservation issue areas covered in the module.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Interpet and distinguish between different theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of global and transboundary environmental problems, will be achieved by assessments: 1,2,3
Analyse key problems in the international relations of the environment, integrating theoretical concepts and empirical material will be achieved by assessments: 1,2,3
Acquire, assess, organise and engage with a variety of sources as part of conducting research will be achieved by assessments: 1,2,3
Effectively and fluently communicate complex arguments supported by appropriate evidence in oral form will be achieved by assessments: 2,3
Effectively and fluently communicate complex arguments supported by appropriate evidence in written form will be achieved by assessments: 1
Work productively with others in order to ensure that their individual contributions to the exploration of a set of related problems are effectively coordinated will be achieved by assessments: 1

Study hours

Lecture attendance - 15 hours
Tutorial attendance - 5 hours
Preparation for tutorials - 20 hours
Preparation for oral presentation - 10 hours
Research for and preparation of the essay - 50 hours
Preparation for the written exam - 48 hours
Sitting the written exam - 2 hours

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Oral Presentation weighted 10%
5-minute oral presentation
Each individual student delivers a 5- minute oral presentation on a set question in one of the meetings of his/her tutorial group. He/she receives immediate oral feedback and then receives a completed oral presentation feedback sheet.

2: Essay weighted 40%
a 2,000-word essay
The student choses one from a list of over 20 essay questions, on which he/she writes a 2,000-word essay, using sources identified on the relevant reading list provided in the module website lodged in the KLE.

3: Exam weighted 50%
a 2-hour unseen written exam
The student has to answer two questions from a list of questions which reflects the overall thematic content of the module.