Environmental Law and Regulations

Course Description: 

It has only been a few decades since environmental protection burst onto the global legal scene in the 1970s. Since that time, an array of institutions and systems have been put in place to monitor, regulate, and enforce environmental norms. This rapid growth is important for business lawyers, whose clients need to be aware of and comply with environmental protection standards. In addition, corporate social responsibility and sustainability are becoming increasingly important priorities for business, as consumers demand green production, and carbon emissions become a matter of international concern. This course will introduce students to the legal and regulatory system of environmental protection, focusing on the intersections between international business law and environmental law. Along the way, it will cover theoretical topics such as the links between environment and economy, the tragedy of the commons, and the ‘anthropocene’, as well as practical topics such as the limits of jurisdiction, regulatory systems, and institutional processes. In addition, the course will discuss leading cases such as Kiobel and Shrimp/Turtle, exploring the ways in which national and international environmental law constrain business actors.


Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this course, students should be able to: 

  • Understand the idea of environmental ethics, and its relationship with business ethics 
  • Discuss the history of environmental law and its major themes and concepts 
  • Explain the system of international environmental law, and particularly the interactions between trade and investment law and the environment 
  • Understand the ways in which international environmental law fails to deal with environmental issues, including lack of political will and governance gaps
  • Be familiar with the ways in which national law addresses environmental issues, and give examples from the US, EU, and other jurisdictions 
  • Discuss the role of private entities—such as businesses, consumers, and NGOs—in developing and enforcing environmental rules 
  • Understand the notion of corporate social responsibility and explain its limits

In addition, students should develop their skills, including: 

  • Interpersonal communication skills – mastering environmental legal terminology through exposure, repetition, and use in class 
  • Technology skills – learning to work with internet and resource databases as they research treaties, national environmental law, and business sustainability initiatives 
  • Cultural sensitivity and diversity – feeling comfortable working with different legal systems and traditions, applying comparative principles 
  • Critical thinking – developing the ability to analyze, compare, and critique different legal approaches to problem solving

The course will be graded on the basis of class participation (20%), homework assignments (30%), and a final exam (50%).