CPT855: Environmental Policy and Climate Change

School Cardiff School of Geography and Planning
Department Code GEOPL
Module Code CPT855
External Subject Code F810
Number of Credits 20
Level L7
Language of Delivery English
Module Leader Professor Richard Cowell
Semester Autumn Semester
Academic Year 2017/8

How the module will be assessed

Formative assessment: Students will receive ongoing oral feedback by peers and module instructors to their contributions during the seminar sessions.

Summative assessment: The module will be assessed through group presentations and a written essay that critically analyses an aspect of the global environmental policy debate.

The principal aims of the assessed work are to:

  • provide an opportunity for students to develop and demonstrate a detailed understanding of current environmental issues;
  • to further skills of critical analysis (e.g. the identification of key issues and relationships, and assess the relative merits of different conceptual and intellectual frameworks for understanding environmental issues); and
  • to develop written communication skills.

Group Presentations

Overall 25% (20% individual input, 5% group input) contribution

Presentations expanding on a particular aspect of the module

20-30 minutes for ech group, TBC depending on class numbers


Written coursework



3,000 words


The opportunity for reassessment in this module

Students are permitted to be reassessed (usually once) in a module which they have failed, in line with course regulations. The reassessment will usually take place during the summer.

How the module will be delivered

The module involves the following methods of learning and teaching:

  • Lectures with an opportunity for, and expectation of, student involvement;
  • Seminars, based on key readings and class tasks, with ample opportunity for, and expectation of, student involvement;
  • Presentations by environmental policy practitioners, with an opportunity for student questions and engagement;
  • Guided reading and individual study.

The lectures seek to provide key knowledge about contemporary environmental policy and climate change issues and the formulation of policy. The seminars provide a ‘signposted route map’ through essential literature and help students to develop a critical understanding and the ability to practically assess environmental policy problems and the related literature. Students will also be required to deepen their understanding and knowledge through their own reading/research.

Outline Description of Module

This module provides a foundation for analysing environmental policy-making and to explore emerging debates on global environmental problems, with a particular view to anthropogenic climate change. During the module, we will: explore the relationship between environmental assessments and policy formulation through the analysis of critical environmental questions; assess the scientific and social constructions of environmental problems and climate change; examine the tensions between participatory and expert driven modes of environmental policy; examine political and policy constraints and opportunities for sustainable development and climate change; examine the implications of climate change in different countries and developmental contexts; and explore the relationship between local and global issues in the context of environment, climate change and development. Contemporary environmental problems in a variety of media are used to illustrate environmental policy dilemmas in the UK, the European Union and abroad.  The module addresses key environmental policy debates at a variety of spatial scales and critically analyses the role of different institutions and actors in addressing environmental issues and climate change.

On completion of the module a student should be able to

  • describe the main environmental problems and explain their drivers;
  • understand the complexities of policymaking in relation to environmental and climate issues;
  • recognise key issues and relationships between key actors in environmental and climate policy;
  • critically analyse environmental policy processes at the global and national level, within Europe and other developed and developing countries;
  • explain the causes and likely consequences of anthropogenic climate change and critically assess possible social responses, such as scepticism, mitigation and adaptation;
  • make links between environmental and climate policy and development and between local and global issues;
  • critically assess key environmental policy debates and key aspects of the climate change debate;
  • explain the theoretical underpinnings of, and drivers behind, environmental and climate policy, and the inter-relationship between human activities, the natural environment and climate change (in both developed and developing countries);
  • critically assess environmental policy formulation and responses in selected case study policy areas on different scales and their linkages, in particular climate change mitigation, adaptation and geoengineering;
  • distinguish between different approaches to environmental policy and climate change and evaluate their implications, likely consequences and underlying assumptions; and
  • develop and present coherent solutions to environmental and climate change issues, be they global or local in nature, strategic or practical.

Skills that will be practised and developed

Students will have an opportunity to develop and will be expected to demonstrate the following skills through contributions to debates and written submissions:

Academic skills:

  • An ability to analyse complex problems and isolate relevant factors and causal relations, in particular the complexities of modern environmental problems, anthropogenic climate change, and the policy dilemmas they create;
  • An appreciation of the wide range of partly conflicting values that characterise contemporary environmental problems and public understanding of them
  • An ability to describe the policy process and the various actors that influence it in both developed and developing countries;
  • An ability to appraise the stance taken by government, industry, NGOs and society toward key environmental problems, in particular toward climate change, mitigation and adaptation.

Subject-specific skills:

  • An ability to identify key issues and relationships between key actors in environmental policy and climate change; and
  • An ability to develop and present coherent solutions to environmental and climate change issues, be they global or local in nature, strategic or practical.

Employability skills

  • Analysis: an ability to analyse complex policy and practice problems through case studies;
  • Judgement: an ability to provide reasoned judgment on complex alternatives;
  • Constructive and creative thinking: an ability to develop solutions to complex problems;
  • Communication: an ability to communicate their ideas clearly and succinctly.

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs) Period Week
Presentation 25 Group Presentation N/A 1 N/A
Written Assessment 75 Essay N/A 1 N/A

Essential Reading and Resource List

Carter, N. (2007) The Politics of the Environment. Ideas, Activism, Policy. Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

O’Neill, Kate (2009) The Environment and International Relations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Theros, Marika / Hervey, Angus / Held, David, eds. (2011) The Governance
of Climate Change: Science, Politics and Ethics
. Polity Press, Cambridge, UK

Background Reading and Resource List

Many core documents are available online:

The Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) summarise the latest scientific consensus. They are available at http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/index.htm.

UNEP: Global Environmental Outlook GEO 4: Environment for Development is available at http://www.unep.org/geo/geo4/report/GEO-4_Report_Full_en.pdf.

The websites of the UNFCCC (unfccc.int), UNEP (www.unep.org), the IPCC (www.ipcc.ch) and the European Environment Agency (www.eea.europa.eu) offer updated and background information.

There is now a wide range of academic journals specialised on environmental policy, including Environmental Policy and Planning C, Environmental Politics and the Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning.

Key journals for climate change include Global Environmental Change, Climate Policy and Climatic Change.

Syllabus content

The module starts with an overview over the wide range of environmental policy problems and how climate change policy has been scientifically constituted at the global level. We then examine how environmental policy is devised in different developmental contexts. This is followed by an analysis of the environmental policy process and environmental policy instruments. Building on these foundations, we then discuss how climate change has been problematized at the science-policy interface and what this means in terms of accepting or not accepting climate change as a policy issue in contemporary society.

The second half of the module explores the strategies, governance and policy implications of climate change. We first analyse how climate change impacts create vulnerabilities, particularly how the IPCC has approached resilience through transformative pathways. We then examine the strategies of government policymakers in implementing climate policy. We then look at the politics and policy of climate change in various countries and the different strategies and challenges for implementing responses to climate change. We then explore the emerging system of global climate governance and their links to international relations and how practitioners respond to climate change at lower scales of governance. In the final week we move onto the assessed presentations.

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