CPT855 - Environmental Policy and Climate Change

SchoolCardiff School of Planning and Geography
Department CodeCPLAN0
Module CodeCPT855
External Subject CodeF810
Number of Credits20
Language of DeliveryEnglish
Module Leader Dr Andrew Kythreotis
SemesterAutumn Semester
Academic Year2014/5

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: analyse critical environmental questions, and especially the implications of climate change, in the developed and developing worlds; 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 constraints and opportunities for sustainable development; 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

How the module will be delivered

The module involves the following methods of learning and teaching:

 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 assess environmental policy problems and the literature. Students will also be required to deepen their understanding and knowledge through their own reading/research.

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.

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 multiple choice tests and a written essay that critically analyses an aspect of the global environmental policy debate. 

The multiple choice tests account for 25% of the module’s mark. They will allow students to give evidence of knowing and understandingof key environmental policy issues covered in the core readings and to encourage them to expand their knowledge of contemporary environmental policy issues.For each of the nine reading based seminar sessions from week 2 onwards, 11 multiple choice questions will be set which test the knowledge and critical understanding of the reading. In addition, 1 generic question will be set for the final seminar session. Overall, 100 multiple choice questions will be asked. Students will be asked to answer the questions via Learning Central before the relevant seminar session. The mark for this part of the assessment will correspond to the percentage of correct answers. The principal aims of the multiple choice tests are toprovide an opportunity for students:

·               to engage with key readings and to receive early and quick feedback on their understanding of essential arguments and

·               to demonstrate an understanding of current environmental policy debates.

The assessed essay accounts for 75% of the module’s marks.  The written paper is designed to help students enhance their academic skills and to develop defensible arguments based on their knowledge. It will also allow students to give evidence of knowledge, analysis, synthesis and evaluation skills. Contributions will be marked on the basis of:

·         content and coherence of argument in line with the learning objectives (for example, whether your line of argument is adequately supported by facts, quotes, ethical reasoning or examples);

·         clarity of communication.

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

Type of assessment



(if applicable)

Approx. date of Assessment

Multiple choice tests

Overall 25%

Weekly questions on core reading, to be administrated via Learning Central


Weekly in Autumn

Written coursework



(3000 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.

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Qualifying Mark Title Duration(hrs) Period Week
Written Assessment 25 N/A
Multiple Choice Test
N/A 1 N/A
Written Assessment 75 N/A
N/A 1 N/A

Syllabus content

The module starts with an overview over the wide range of environmental policy problems. We analyse their specifics and explore why they are difficult to address. We then revisit key developments in environmental policy and the role of democracy, participation and public understanding. This is followed by an analysis of the environmental policy process and environmental policy instruments. Building on these foundations, we discuss environmental policy in the EU’s system of multi-level governance and the challenges for environmental policy in non-OECD countries.

The second half of the module explores the governance and policy implications of climate change. We first revisit how climate change has been constituted as a scientific, social and political issue. We analyse how climate change impacts create vulnerabilities, how places can be made more resilient and how mitigation, adaptation and geo-engineering strategies address the problem. We then look at the politics of climate change and the challenges for implementing responses to climate change on the ground. We explore the emerging system of global climate governance and their links to international relations and competing climate discourses. Finally we analyse the complex challenges posed by climate change to global food security.

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

The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment is available at http://www.millenniumassessment.org/en/index.aspx

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 or the Journal for Environmental Policy and Planning.

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

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