UCL Faculty of Laws


Law and Policy of International Trade and the Environment (LAWS0297)

This module is designed for students with a specific interest in the increasingly complex and important interface between international trade liberalization and environmental protection.

Module Description

The aim of this module is to equip students with advanced knowledge and critical understanding of the growingly complex interaction between international trade and environmental protection from the perspective of public international law and domestic governmental regulation (i.e., State-centred norms). Since the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, States have consistently pledged to ensure ‘mutual supportiveness’ between international trade and environmental policies in several international treaties and other legal/policy instruments. And yet, the precise meaning and implications of ‘mutual supportiveness’ remain contentious. In fact, are the international trade and environmental regimes inherently in conflict? To the extent this is so, does ‘mutual supportiveness’ assist us in reconciling existing tensions? And if it does not, how should we reconcile competing trade and environmental objectives and who should undertake such a reconciliatory or balancing exercise? The module will offer students the opportunity to explore and critically evaluate these challenging questions, through an in-depth analysis of prominent environmental measures or principles and their relationship with the law of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

It will begin with an introduction to the underlying conceptual framework, including the notions of ‘mutual supportiveness’, ‘sustainable development’ and ‘conflicts of norms’ in public international law. Thereafter, each of the eight substantive seminars will select a contemporary environmental issue and critically examine its compatibility with WTO rules. In other words, to what extent do WTO disciplines hinder –or conversely, support– the adoption of trade-related measures that are provided for in multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), or are otherwise deemed necessary to achieve multilaterally-agreed environmental objectives? As could be expected, most of the trade-environment nexus examined in the module concerns climate change mitigation (e.g., border carbon adjustments and promotion of climate-friendly biofuels and renewable energy) as today’s most pressing environmental threat confronting our societies, but it will also consider other global environmental concerns (e.g., biodiversity, precaution and fight against unsustainable fishing practices). In the last of these seminars, we move beyond the WTO and examine environmental provisions in free trade agreements (FTAs), which are playing an increasingly important role in regulating the trade-environment relationship.
Module Syllabus

Indicatively, the module will cover the following seminar topics:
1.    Introduction to the Course/Introduction to the ‘Trade-and-Environment’ Debate
2.    The MEA/WTO Relationship
3.    Border Carbon Adjustments and GATT
4.    Biofuels Sustainability and GATT/TBT Agreement
5.    Precautionary Principle and SPS Agreement
6.    Renewable Energy Subsidies and SCM Agreement
7.    IUU Fishing Subsidies and SCM Agreement
8.    Technology Transfer, Biodiversity and TRIPS Agreement
9.    Beyond the WTO: Environmental Provisions in Free Trade Agreements
10.    Exam Revision
Recommended Materials

Individual seminar reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment.

Preliminary Reading

As an introduction to the module, students are recommended to read:

•    S. Charnovitz, ‘An Introduction to the Trade and Environment Debate’ in K. P. Gallagher (ed), Handbook on Trade and the Environment (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2008);
•    P. Sands and J. Peel, Principles of International Environmental Law (Cambridge University Press, 4th edition, 2018), Chapter 18.

Key Information

Module information
Credit value:22.5 Credits (225 Learning Hours)

Gracia Marin Duran

Other Teachers:None
Teaching Delivery:Teaching for all LLM modules in 2020-21 will be delivered through a combination of pre-recorded and synchronous live teaching
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only
Prerequisites:Students are required to take either either Law of World Trade Organisation (LAWS0268), or Law and Policy of Climate Change (LAWS0293). While not a formal prerequisite, students would benefit from taking both modules.
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:

LLM in Environmental Law and Policy
LLM in International Law

Practice Assessment:TBC
Final Assessment:48 Hour take-home examination (100%)