566.01 International Environmental Law

This class explores international environmental law, one of the fastest growing fields of international cooperation. In 1972, there were only a smattering of international environmental treaties. Today, hundreds of agreements have been negotiated, covering such diverse topics as acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer, climate change, protection of biological diversity, desertification, and transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and chemicals.

This course will provide a general introduction to the basic concepts and mechanisms of international environmental law. The overarching question we will examine is: What role can law play in addressing international environmental problems? More specifically, we will ask:

  • Why do states cooperate in developing international environmental norms? What factors promote or hinder cooperation?
  • What legal mechanisms or approaches facilitate the development of international environmental standards?
  • What role do science and expertise play in international environmental cooperation?
  • What types of international environmental standards are most effective? How do we evaluate effectiveness?
  • What incentives do states have to comply with international environmental standards? What disincentives?

The course will be structured in roughly two parts.  In the first part of the course, we will discuss the background, history, and political economy of international environmental law, as well as some of the main principles of international environmental law.  In the second part of the course, we will examine in detail a number of environmental treaties—from areas such as ozone protection, climate change, marine pollution, fisheries protection, and biodiversity—in an effort to understand how international environmental law works, and doesn’t.  Students will be expected to participate in class discussions and write a 20+ page research paper on a topic of their choice. 

Special Notes:


Fall 2022

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room
Course Credits
Research and/or analytical paper(s), 20+ pages
Class participation
Tim Meyer Tu 4:00 PM-5:50 PM 3000
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/LAW-566-01-F22
Email list: LAW-566-01-F22@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - LLM-ICL
Course Areas of Practice