3 ECTS credits
90 h study time

Offer 1 with catalog number 6016812FNR for all students in the 1st semester at a (F) Master - specialised level.

1st semester
Enrollment based on exam contract
Grading method
Grading (scale from 0 to 20)
Can retake in second session
Taught in
Faculty of Law and Criminology
International and European Law
Educational team
Harri Kalimo (course titular)
Activities and contact hours
26 contact hours Lecture
64 contact hours Independent or External Form of Study
Course Content

The planetary boundaries of economic growth are rapidly approaching. This course focuses on the main sustainability challenges of the global economy, such as the depletion of natural resources, climate change and the loss of biodiversity, and explores how the European and international environmental law address these challenges. The ethos of the course is discursive and interdisciplinary (combining law with environmental and political sciences), while the methodology relies on case analysis and a real-time study of the latest legal developments in the field.  The course commences by introducing the students to the foundations and the evolution of EU and international environmental law. The course then explores the central principles and the diversity of hard and soft means of governance in transnational environmental law. Finally, the course focuses on  seminal substantive areas of EU and international environmental law, such as the circular economy, climate law, biodiversity law, trade-and-environment and green public procurement.

Course material
Digital course material (Required) : EU Environmental Law in an International Context, Syllabus, Canvas
Additional info

Study material: A detailed course syllabus including the readings per lecture is offered to the students online (CANVAS). The syllabus will be explained in the first session. The readings are divided into those required for the exam, the supplementary readings that are for reference in the class but not required for the exam, as well as suggestions for voluntary further reading. The readings are available in an electronic form on CANVAS. Students are expected to have read the required reading before the scheduled lecture/seminar. The PowerPoint presentations used during the course are made available online after each lecture.

Learning Outcomes

Algemene competenties

Knowledge: After the course, students have gained a thorough knowledge of the most important features of European and international environmental law (objectives, principles, institutional frameworks and most pertinent challenges) and are familiar with core substantive areas of modern international and European environmental law (such as the circular economy law and climate law).

Skills: On this basis, the students will be able to apply their knowledge and skills effectively and independently while addressing topical challenges of environmental law for both academic and practical purposes. The student is also able to analyse the larger legal and econo-political context of global environmental protection law and policy (historical background, current situation, future perspectives) as well as the main actors institutions, instruments and decision-making processes of EU and international environmental law.

Finally, students will be able to engage in basic tasks of legal nature in the field of EU and international environmental law (e.g., drafting legal opinions and memoranda, advising legal and non-legal decision makers, claiming and defending rights, and assessing the suitability of specific environmental law instruments, etc.).

Attitudes: During the course, the students gain an attitude of a responsible yet critical participant of the sustainable society. 



The final grade is composed based on the following categories:
Written Exam determines 90% of the final mark.
Other determines 10% of the final mark.

Within the Written Exam category, the following assignments need to be completed:

  • Open ended Questions with a relative weight of 50 which comprises 45% of the final mark.
  • Case Study Essay with a relative weight of 50 which comprises 45% of the final mark.

Within the Other category, the following assignments need to be completed:

  • Participation & Assignments with a relative weight of 1 which comprises 10% of the final mark.

    Note: Evaluation on the basis of their participation in class

Additional info regarding evaluation

Mode of Assessment: The assessment is divided into two parts: class participation and a written exam, which consists of short open-ended questions and a case study essay.

  • The students will be evaluated on the basis of their active participation in class and online (to the extent that online assignments are used)
    • 0 % not present / active
    • 5 % relatively present / active
    • 10 % mostly present and active
  • Part 1 of exam will consist of 3-5 short open-ended questions (closed book, 45 %), based upon the lectures and the assigned mandatory reading material. Together, the questions will cover a representative (each year varying) range of the issue areas across the course. Focus is on assessing knowledge and insight.  
  • Part 2 of the exam is a case study essay (open book, 45%), based upon the lectures and the assigned reading material. The case study deals with a topic on which a number of issue areas of the course intersect. The essay tests the student’s insights on these areas, as well his/her skills to move across and to interconnect them into a logically sound, legally well-reasoned and clearly written essay. Central to the essay is thus the student’s ability to apply his/her legal knowledge and skills to a practical case.


Sample questions:

Short questions, closed-book exam:

1. What are the key advantages and disadvantages of voluntary instruments as a form of environmental law? Use two informational EU environmental law instruments to give concrete examples.

2. Explain the precautionary principle in the EU environmental law. Give a concrete example on its application.

3. What are according to the lectures and Krämer (2020) the key challenges of implementing EU environmental law?

4. What are the cornerstones of current EU climate law? Please mention the relevant legislative instruments and their main objectives.

5. Please elaborate on the role of the “Conferences of the Parties” (COPs) of multilateral environmental agreements: What are, usually, their main functions and powers? Where do the powers of the COPs find their limits?


Open-book Case study:

You have 2 hours to finish Part 2 of the Exam.

  • Open book
  • This Part 2 consists of an essay of two parts
  • Maximum overall length of response for the parts together: 2000 words on laptop, 4 pages single spaced (part beyond this will not be read)


You are a Member of the Cabinet of Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevičius. Mr. Sinkevičius has called you into his office to help strategize about the upcoming winter. He explains that his plan is to move forward to address the issue of  packaging, which poses considerable risks to human health and the environment. 

He would like to move on two interlinked fronts: A) within the EU and B) in third countries that are a part of the European supply chains for consumer good packaging. He shows you two related press releases (see further below) from a news supplier where the issues have been discussed – they might help as inspiration, although you are not limited to them.

A) Within the EU, he would like to develop an environmental law instrument for food packaging that would fit the current Circular Economy Action Plan. He asks for help in developing a policy instrument that would fit the Circular Economy Action Plan and could be used to promote the environmentally sustainable circularity of packaging. He thus requests you to

A.1) give examples of two clearly different policy instruments that could be used for making packaging environmentally sustainable in line with the Circular Economy Action plan. You can invent these instruments yourself, they need not actually exist. Make sure the provisions are detailed enough to make clear how they can contribute to the objective. Explain what kind of policy instruments they are (2 points)

A.2) explain how these two proposed instruments fit the Circular Economy Action Plan as well as existing EU waste law. (1 point)

A.3) compare these two instruments against the three key criteria for assessing instruments (contents of Lecture 3). On the basis of the comparison, explain which of the legal instruments you would propose him, for the EU to adopt, and why so. (2 points)


B) With regard to non-EU countries, Commissioner Sinkevičius is also concerned about the environmental sustainability of the packaging of consumer products imported to the EU.  He asks you

B.1) how EU trade policy, and in particular recently negotiated Preferential Trade Agreements, can be used as a means to enhance the environmental sustainability of packaging (2 points);

B.2) whether the instruments that you just proposed to him (Question A above) would constitute trade barriers from the viewpoint of WTO law. Specifically, he asks you to explain whether and why the instruments in question might be considered prohibited under WTO law, and if so, under what conditions (if at all) WTO law would consider them to be justifiable (2 points).

Allowed unsatisfactory mark
The supplementary Teaching and Examination Regulations of your faculty stipulate whether an allowed unsatisfactory mark for this programme unit is permitted.

Academic context

This offer is part of the following study plans:
Master of International and European Law: Standaard traject