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Unit outline_

LAWS6061: International Environmental Law

Intensive April, 2021 [Block mode] - Remote

This unit aims to provide an introduction to the framework, concepts, sources and techniques of international environmental law, and to provide an overview of international law responses to current and emerging environmental challenges. The history and framework of international environmental law will be examined before exploring a range of topical international environmental law issues, including atmospheric protection and climate change, hazardous substances and wastes, biodiversity and GMOs, the protection of marine living resources, the protection of freshwater resources and issues concerning trade. The unit will also survey the influence of international environmental law on domestic environmental law through case studies. Overarching themes will include the interdependence of environmental issues, the effects of scientific uncertainty on international environmental regulation, implementation of international environmental obligations between states at difference levels of economic development and the need for effectiveness in implementation and enforcement.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Law
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Ed Couzens,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Negotiators Handbook questions
Using a book and internet, students must answer 60 questions.
20% Week 03
Due date: 17 Mar 2021 at 17:00
2,000 words equivalent
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO7 LO9
Assignment Law-making and Diplomacy questions
Students must read 11 book chapters and summarise each in max 250 words.
20% Week 05
Due date: 31 Mar 2021 at 17:00
2,000 words equivalent
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Assignment Assignment
Problem-style question
60% Week 11
Due date: 17 May 2021 at 17:00

Closing date: 17 May 2021
4,000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10

Assessment summary

There are two pre-block tasks worth 20% each. There is a post-block task worth 60%. 

The first pre-block task is a set of 60 questions designed to lead the students through reading a practical book – most of the answers are obvious, but some require internet-based research also. The second task requires that the students read 11 chapters in a scholarly book and write a short summary of each. The point of these two tasks is to give the students a sound platform in both scholarly literature and practical negotiation technique from which to understand the unit content.

The release date for these two sets of questions is 19 February. Answers to the first must be submitted by 17 March; and to the second by 31 March. Each of these two tasks has a word length of 2,000 words.

The main assessment task, for 60%, will be a time-bound problem-based question, released on 26 April and to be submitted three weeks later on 17 May. The word length is 4,000 words. This task will encompass many of the themes covered in the content of the unit and will require research.  

If any students are granted extensions (i.e. as approved by Special Consideration) the appropriate course will be a new/varied assessment and either a replacement problem or a research-essay type assessment. 


Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

  • Completely answers the question.
  • Contains striking originality of approach or analysis.
  • Demonstrates exhaustive or innovative research (where independent research required).
  • Exceptionally well written, structured and expressed.
  • Is otherwise exceptional in some way.


75 - 84

  • Completely answers the question.
  • Achieves a critical and evaluative approach to the issues.
  • Content and structure is well organised in support of the argument.
  • Demonstrates extensive research and analysis to support a well-documented argument.
  • Generally well expressed and free from errors.
  • Has a clear structure and is well articulated.


65 - 74

  • Covers main issues fairly well in answering the question.
  • Contains no significant errors.
  • Demonstrates an attempted critical approach to the issues.
  • Demonstrates reasonably sound research and analysis in addressing the key issues.
  • Has a clear structure and reasonably clear expression.


50 - 64

  • Identifies the key issues, but does not follow through with a reasoned argument.
  • Contains some significant errors.
  • Displays satisfactory engagement with the key issues.
  • Offers a descriptive summary of material relevant to the question.
  • Superficial use of material, and may display a tendency to paraphrase.
  • Demonstrates little evidence of in-depth research or analysis.
  • Adequate expression.
  • Overall, demonstrates the minimum level of competence in the assessment and satisfies the requirements to proceed to higher-level studies in the degree or subject area.


0 - 49

  • Does not answer the question.
  • Contains significant or numerous errors.
  • Few or no identifiable arguments.
  • Content that is inappropriate or irrelevant.
  • Lack of research or analysis.
  • Difficult or impossible to understand through poor grammar, expression or structure.
  • Overall, does not demonstrate the minimum level of competence in the assessment.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

2.5% per day after submission date.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 03 1. Introduction and approaching research at postgraduate level; 2. History and development of international environmental law; 3. Introduction to the relationship between international and national environmental law; 4. Introduction to international negotiation practices and techniques. Lecture (6.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
1. The role and place of customary international law and principles in IEL; 2. Introduction to dispute settlement and IEL; 3 and 4. International regulation of biological diversity and natural resources. Lecture (6.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10
1 and 2. International regulation of oceans, seas and marine living resources; 3. International regulation of atmospheric protection and climate change; 4. International regulation of extreme regions (Arctic, Antarctic, Outer Space). Lecture (6.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10
1. International regulation of chemicals and hazardous wastes; 2. International regulation of freshwater resources; 3. International regulation of environmental impact assessment; 4. Australia and IEL. Lecture (6.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance: All students are required to attend 70% of classes (or as otherwise specified by the Unit Coordinator) to satisfy the pass requirements for each unit of study. Failure to meet this requirement may result in a student being precluded from sitting the final assessment. For units offered in Intensive mode, participation in all scheduled sessions may be expected by a Unit Coordinator in order to satisfy the requirements of the unit.

Word count penalty: A piece of assessment which exceeds the prescribed word limit will attract a penalty of 2.5% of the total marks available for the piece of assessment for every 100 words, or part thereof. The total word count for essay and other written assessments will exclude bibliography; footnote numbers; footnote citation; cover page and include body text; headings and sub-headings; quotations; anything other than numbers and citations in footnotes.

Referencing: The Sydney Law School expects you to use the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (4th edition, 2018) for your footnoting style, although you should confirm this with your lecturer, and a link to the library website where this is set out comprehensively is available at

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

There is no single prescribed reading for the substantive seminars/sections – specific recommended readings are provided in the UoS outline.

There are prescribed readings for assessments. From 30 days before the seminars begin, students must read two books – a handbook on negotiation techniques; and a collection of chapters. Students must answer a set of basic questions on the handbook; and must provide brief summaries of 11 of the book chapters.


Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Gain a sound understanding of the key components of international environmental law.
  • LO2. Gain an overview of the development of international environmental law throughout the 20th century.
  • LO3. Gain an understanding of the legal and institutional framework of international environmental law, including the basic rules and institutions of public international law; the relationship between international law and international environmental law; the most significant international institutions which generate, help to implement and administer international environmental law.
  • LO4. Gain an understanding of the general principles of international environmental law and key cases.
  • LO5. Gain an awareness of how international environmental law has been applied to deal with certain environmental issues on a topical basis.
  • LO6. Gain an understanding of the need for effective domestic implementation of international environmental rules.
  • LO7. Gain an appreciation of the importance of enforcement and compliance with international environmental obligations and how new mechanisms are being developed to deal with this challenge.
  • LO8. Gain the ability to assess challenges for international environmental law in the future.
  • LO9. Gain an appreciation of the practical difficulties that must be overcome in accommodating different state positions in negotiations toward, and within, international environmental conventions.
  • LO10. Gain an understanding of Australia's role and place in the internaitonal environmental law field; and of how Australia incorporates international environmental law into its national law.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

This unit has been taught for some years on the basis of participatory negotiation exercises blended into the seminars. That will not be possible with a 'blended' unit, but the unit will retain a strong dimension of practical expertise and learning of negotiation techniques.

This unit provides a strong blend of theory and practice, to instil an understanding not just of law but also of the processes of law-making.

The teaching is informed by practical experience with real international law negotiations; and by substantial experience with the teaching of international environmental negotiation techniques.



Additional costs

There are no additional costs for this unit.

Site visit guidelines

There are no site visit guidelines for this unit.

Work, health and safety

There are no specific work health and safety requirements for this unit.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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