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Unit information: Environmental Policy and Politics in 2015/16

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Unit name Environmental Policy and Politics
Unit code GEOGM1409
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Fairbrother
Open unit status Not open

All core Term 1 units for the MSc in Environmental Policy and Management


All core Term 2 units for the MSc in Environmental Policy and Management

School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This unit provides an advanced introduction to the kinds of decisions that governments and other public authorities make with respect to the environment (governance), and conflicts over those decisions and/or over who has the authority to make them (politics). The unit will consider administrative/political scales ranging from the local to the global, and actors ranging from individuals to international organisations. The unit aims:

  • To familiarise students with the dilemmas and trade-offs that governments face in making decisions with respect to the natural environment.
  • To familiarise students with key themes and findings in academic research on environmental governance and politics.
  • To enable students to undertake sophisticated analyses of environmental policy debates.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit students should be able to:

  • Identify the key actors in environmental governance and politics, at scales ranging from the local to the global, as well as those actors’ environmental priorities and the sources of those priorities.
  • Analyse specific cases of environmental conflict; locate background information about those conflicts that allows them to understand the key actors, stakes, and sources of the conflict; and identify constructive roles for scientific research in resolving and/or illuminating the conflict.
  • Identify successful and failed cases of international environmental cooperation

Teaching Information

The unit will be centred on a weekly two-hour seminar. Each week, the instructor will provide an initial informal lecture. After that, the instructor will organise structured small-group, problem-oriented discussions among the seminar participants. At some point during the term, the instructor will arrange for a guest speaker from the environmental governance field to visit the seminar and describe his/her work

Assessment Information

(1) One Negotiations Analysis (worth 30%; maximum 1000 words), where students provide a brief statement of their objectives for the negotiation, and why they are pursuing those objectives. There will be a peer-assessment component, as the perceived winner of each simulation group will be allocated an extra point on the assessment.

(2) One 3500 word essay (worth 70%) completed at the end of the unit, describing and analysing an issue in environmental policy and politics, of the student’s choice. The first two pages of the essay will consist of a Policy Memo, summarising the issue for a hypothetical policymaker audience.

Reading and References

Boyce, James K. 2007. “Inequality and Environmental Protection.” Pp. 314-348 in Jean-Marie Baland, Pranab Bardhan, and Samuel Bowles (eds.) Inequality, Cooperation, and Environmental Sustainability. New York: Russell Sage.

Dasgupta, Susmita, Benoit Laplante, Hua Wang, and David Wheeler. 2002. "Confronting the Environmental Kuznets Curve." Journal of Economic Perspectives 16[1]: 147-68.

Endres, Alfred. 2011. Environmental Economics: Theory and Policy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Ferraro, Paul J. 2009. "Counterfactual Thinking and Impact Evaluation in Environmental Policy." New Directions for Evaluation 122: 75–84.

Harrison, Kathryn. 2010. “The Comparative Politics of Carbon Taxation.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 6: 507–29. OECD 2011a: "Environmental Taxation: A Guide for Policy Makers." September.