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Postgraduate Courses

Principles of Environmental Law (PBL5640F)

Semester: First Semester Course Convener: Mrs Phillipa King Format: Block Teaching

The health of planet earth, and accordingly the sustainability of human life on it, is facing significant challenges. One of the disciplines that have sought to fashion a framework for overcoming and governing these challenges, is law. The result has seen the rapid emergence of international and regional instruments and domestic laws seeking to regulate the manner in which humans interact with their environment.

This course aims to provide an introduction to environmental law. It is broken down into 8 main components. Component One will introduce students to the main environmental challenges facing human society. Component Two will provide a historical overview of the development of environmental law. Component Three will consider the ethical basis for introducing environmental law. Component Four will analyse what environmental law is and in particular, its nature and ambit, underlying principles and sources. Component Five will consider the relationship between constitutional rights (environmental rights, administrative justice, access to information, locus standi) and environmental law. Component Six will consider the issue of environmental governance and the key institutions involved in this enterprise. Component Seven will consider the main legal tools prevalent in environmental laws such as: planning measures; civil measures; administrative measures; criminal measures; and incentive-based measures. Component Eight will conclude with an analysis of the main challenges facing domestic environmental regimes.

As South Africa has one of the world’s most contemporary environmental legal regimes, it will be used as a case study throughout the above components. Given the pervasive nature of environmental law, the issues covered in this course are of relevance to all domestic legal practitioners, government officials and those working in the NGO sector. Furthermore, given the contemporary nature of South Africa’s environmental regime, the course is of key relevance to foreign students wishing to understand, critique and become involved in the reformation of their own domestic environmental regimes.