LAWENVIR 737 - Global Environmental Law

The course examines environmental law and governance from the international, regional and national levels.

Lecturer biography

Dr. Klaus Bosselmann is Professor of Law and Founding Director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law at the University of Auckland. His main areas of research are international environmental law, global governance and comparative constitutional law. He has served as a consultant to the UN, OECD, the EU and the governments of Germany and New Zealand and has been a visiting professor at leading universities around the world. Prof Bosselmann is Chair of the Ecological Law and Governance Association, Chair of IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law Ethics Specialist Group and Co-Chair of the Global Ecological Integrity Group.

He has published 30 books and over 130 book chapters and articles. For his pioneering work in the area of sustainability law and governance he received numerous awards including the Inaugural Senior Scholarship Prize of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, i.e. the global body of environmental law scholars.

Course Outline

The global coverage includes international environmental law and draws on experiences from the EU, USA, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand highlighting environmental policy innovations from around the world. The topics include state sovereignty, the UN system, principles and sources of international environmental law, climate change, biodiversity, human rights and current developments in global and domestic environmental governance.

Course Objectives

Global Environmental Law is not merely a branch of international law understood as an assembly of institutions, treaties, customary rules and general principles. GEL looks at international and domestic environmental law from a global perspective and aims for an approach that integrates social, economic and environmental aspects of designing policy and law. This approach is commonly referred to as sustainable development. The history, meaning and legal status of sustainability is therefore at the core of studying GEL.
The chief objective of the course is to provide students with an introduction to a range of contemporary issues (such as concentration of wealth and power, failing democracies, climate change) that are relevant to sustainability, i.e. the key challenge of our time.

Course Structure

The course is organized around four major themes: (1) Globalization and Global Challenges (factual, political and legal issues surrounding protection of the global environment); (2) International Law and the Environment (history and concept of public international Law; principles and guiding ideas of international and comparative environmental Law; (3) The Principle of Sustainability (history, meaning and legal status of sustainability and sustainable development); (4) Governance and Law for Sustainability (advancing ecological approaches to law and governance; Earth Charter; Earth trusteeship; current projects).
The first part of the course explores the origins and concept of international environmental law. We will examine key principles and some shortcomings associated with the state-centred nature of international law. The second part has its focus on the principle of sustainability to show how it can guide law and governance at international and national levels.

Learning Outcomes

Students who complete the course successfully should:

  • Understand the origins and subject of international environmental law
  • Be familiar with the concepts of the global environment, state sovereignty, jurisdiction and sustainable development
  • Gain an enhanced appreciation of the fragmented array of international environmental agreements and “soft law” documents
  • Become knowledgeable of the ethical and interdisciplinary foundations of more effective governance and law
  • Appreciate the importance of the global dimension in all aspects of legal theory and practice

Class Schedule

Date  Topic Required Reading
25 Jul Course Introduction, incl. research topics  
29 Jul Globalization and Global Challenges Part 1 Coursebook
1 Aug Globalization and Global Challenges Part 1 Coursebook
5 Aug International Law and the Environment Part 2 Coursebook
8 Aug International Law and the Environment Part 2 Coursebook
15-30 Aug No lectures – lecturer away  
12 Sep The Principle of Sustainability Part 3 Coursebook
17-21 Sep No lectures – lecturer away  
26 Sep The Principle of Sustainability
Part 3 Coursebook
30 Sep Governance and Law for Sustainability Part 4 Coursebook
3 Oct Governance and Law for Sustainability Part 4 Coursebook
7 Oct Governance and Law for Sustainability Part 4 Coursebook
10 Oct Governance and Law for Sustainability Part 4 Coursebook
14 Oct Student presentations  
17-25 Oct No lectures – lecturer away  


90% research essay of 12,500 words and 10% class participation and presentation.


Each student is required to submit a research essay of no
more than 12,500 words including an abstract/synopsis of 500 words. The essay is to be original work, relying on secondary and primary sources. It MUST be the work of the enrolled student. Another person, other than the enrolled student, MUST NOT write the essay nor do the research on behalf of the enrolled student. Plagiarism is not permitted and in that regard each student should read the University’s plagiarism policy and adhere to it. All students will be expected to sign a plagiarism declaration when submitting their essays.
Students must also use proper legal citations and include a reading list at the end of their type-written essay. The essay should be comprised of properly crafted English sentences. (Note form is unacceptable.) The use of sub-headings is encouraged and footnotes rather than Harvard style in-text referencing are to be used.

Descriptive essays are not encouraged. Instead students are
expected to engage with relevant legal issues by: critiquing the law;
developing proposals for reform; examining the operation of law and policy in practice; and/or providing a conceptual analysis of the law, for example.

Essays must be submitted to the Faculty of Law, by Friday 12 noon, 25 October 2019.

Extensions will not be granted lightly (only on sickness and compassionate grounds) and must be requested formally through the Postgraduate Manager.

Class Participation/Presentation

Each student will be asked to make a brief (15 minute) presentation on the topic of their research essay. In addition, each student is expected to make individual contributions to seminar discussions throughout the course. Students will be individually assessed on the quality of their contributions.

Criteria and Marking

Students will be individually assessed on the quality of their contributions with reference to the following criteria:

  • the extent to which the student has identified the important and relevant issues;
  • the clarity of argument;
  • the depth and thoroughness of understanding of the seminar material;
  • the strength and clarity of the arguments presented;
  • the overall lucidity of the contribution;
  • the extent to which issues are placed in their wider context;
  • the extent to which the student has displayed a grasp of the doctrinal and normative issues;
  • the analysis and synthesis of material and;
  • the ability to draw worthwhile conclusions.

Class participation will assessed over the whole of the course. Quality rather than quantity will be assessed but clearly if a student is not present for all the classes, it will be impossible to achieve the maximum marks possible even if a student’s contributions are brilliant when he/she does speak. Students are reminded that the full range of marks is available to the lecturer in assessing class participation. Please be assured that the lecturer is very aware that mistakes are part of learning. Accordingly, ‘getting the law right’ is not the key focus of the class participation component of assessment. If students knew all the law from the outset, there would be little point in them enrolling in the course. Rather, class participation is included to extend students and to assess students’ imaginative understanding of, and engagement with, the materials under discussion. It is not meant to be threatening.

Other Course Requirements

The recommended (but not prescribed) text is Bosselmann, K. (2017), The Principle of Sustainability: Transforming Law and Governance, Routledge, 2nd ed. (paperback available at University Bookshop).
The coursebook is available on Canvas and reading of relevant materials before class is required.
Topics for research essays will be discussed in class at the beginning of the course.

Research Materials

The following are useful websites that can be consulted for both substantive material and for further links:

  • New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law:
  • IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Library of the Earth:

The literature in the field of global environmental law is considerable and growing rapidly. The Davis Law Library has collected a number of important titles, and the following books (mostly available on short loan from the library) are recommended as good introductory readings to the subject area:

  • Akhtarkhavari, Afshin (2010), Global Governance of the Environment, Edward Elgar
  • Birnie, Patricia W, Alan Boyle and Catherine Redgwell (2009), International Law and the Environment, 3rd ed., Oxford University PressBosselmann, Klaus (2017), The Principle of Sustainability: Transforming Law and Governance, 2nd ed. Routledge
  • Bosselmann, Klaus and Prue Taylor (eds.) (2017), Ecological Approaches to Environmental Law, Edward Elgar
  • Bosselmann, Klaus (2015), Earth Governance: Trusteeship of the Global Commons, Edward Elgar
  • Bosselmann, Klaus (2014), National Strategies for Sustainability: Options for New Zealand, NZCEL Monograph Series
  • Bosselmann, Klaus, David Grinlinton and Prue Taylor (eds.) (2013), Environmental Law for a Sustainable Society, 2nd ed., NZCEL Monograph Series
  • Bosselmann, Klaus, Don Fogel and JB Ruhl (eds.) (2011), The Law and Politics of Sustainability, Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability vol. 3, Berkshire Publ.
  • Bosselmann, Klaus and Ronald Engel (eds.) (2010), The Earth Charter: A framework for global governance, KIT Publ.
  • Bosselmann, Klaus, Ron Engel and Prue Taylor (2008), Governance for Sustainability: Issues and challenges, IUCN Environmental Law and Policy Series
  • Bosselmann, Klaus (1995), When Two Worlds Collide: Society and Ecology, RSVP
  • Burdon, Peter, Klaus Bosselmann and Kirsten Engel (eds.) (2019), The Crisis in Global Ethics and the Future of Global Governance, Edward Elgar Publ.
  • Fisher, Douglas (ed.) (2016), Research Handbook on Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Law, Edward Elgar
  • Kiss, Alexandre and Dinah Shelton (2004), International Environmental Law, 3rd ed., Transnational Publishers
  • Kotzé, Louis (2012), International Environmental Governance: Law and Regulation in the 21st Century, Edward Elgar
  • Kotzé, Louis (2016), Global Environmental Constitutionalism in the Anthropocene, Hart Publ.
  • Martin, Betsan, Linda Te Aho and Maria Humphries-Kil (eds) (2019), ResponsAbility: Law and Governance for Living Well with the Earth, Routledge
  • Parcival, Robert et al. (eds.) (2014), Global Environmental Law At A Crossroads, Edward Elgar
  • Richardson, Benjamin and Stepan Wood (eds.) (2006), Environmental Law for Sustainability: A Critical Reader, Hart Publishers
  • Routledge Handbook of International Environmental Law, ed. by S. Alam et al. (2013), Routledge
  • Sands, Philippe and Jacqueline Peel (2012), Principles of International Environmental Law, 3rd ed. Cambridge University Press
  • Soskolne, Colin (ed.) (2008), Sustaining Life on Earth: Environmental and Human Health through Global Governance, Lexington Books
  • Taylor, Prue (1998), An Ecological Approach to International Law, Routledge
  • Westra, Laura (2016), Ecological Integrity and Global Governance, Routledge
  • Westra, Laura, Klaus Bosselmann and Virginia Zambrano (eds.) (2019) Ecological Integrity and Land Uses: Sovereignty, Governance, Displacements and Land Grabs, Nova Science Publ.
  • Westra, Laura, Klaus Bosselmann, Janice Gray and Katherine Gwiazdon (eds.) (2018), Ecological Integrity, Law and Governance, Routledge

Further references on specific aspects of Global Environmental Law can be accessed via online catalogues. Also of particular value for recent developments are the Yearbook of International Environmental Law, Transnational Environmental Law, Review of European Comparative and International Environmental Law and Journal of Human Rights and the Environment. The most important primary source for texts of treaties, ICJ decisions and other international documents is the series International Legal Materials.

Other legal journals in the area include:

  • Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law
  • Australasian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy
  • Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy
  • Ecology Law Quarterly
  • Environmental and Planning Law Journal
  • Environmental Law and Policy
  • European Environmental Law Review
  • International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law
  • Journal of Environmental Law
  • Macquarie Journal of International and Comparative Environmental Law
  • New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law

Articles on international environmental law can also be
found in general international law journals such as American Journal of International Law, Harvard Journal of International Law, Georgetown Journal of International Law or the European Journal of International Law.

Course details

Semester: Two (Full Semester)
Points: 30
Time: Mondays and Thursdays, 5-8pm
Venue: Building 810, Room 3.40
1 - 11 Short Street
Essay due date: 12 noon, 25 October 2019

Contact details

Law Student Centre
Building 810, Level 2
1-11 Short Street


Lecturer Contact
Faculty of Law
Building 810, Level 7
1-11 Short Street

Phone: (09) 923 7827 or ext 88727
Office Hours: Mondays & Thursdays 2-4 pm (by appointment only)