Skip to main content

Unit information: Environmental Policy and Politics in 2017/18

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

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



Teaching Block 1 units associated with Climate Change Science and Policy MSc and Environmental Policy and Management MSc

School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This unit provides an advanced introduction to public policies for protecting the natural environment, and to conflicts over the use of those policies and who has the authority to make decisions about them. 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 introduce students to some core concepts in environmental economics.
  • To familiarise students with the dilemmas and trade-offs that governments face in making decisions with respect to the natural environment.
  • To make students aware of a range of factors that need to be considered when making environmental policy, such as distributional impacts and programme evaluation.
  • To familiarise students with key themes and findings in academic research on environmental policy 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:

  • Explain why environmental problems occur, and why the state has an essential role to play in resolving those problems.
  • Identify the key actors in environmental policy 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 lecture. After that, the instructor will organise structured small-group, problem-oriented discussions or negotiation simulations among the seminar participants.

Assessment Information

(1) Negotiations Analysis 1 (Formative)

(2) Negotiations Analysis 2 (worth 30%; maximum 1000 words), where students provide a brief statement of their objectives for the negotiation, and why they are pursuing those objectives.

(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.