CPT855 - Environmental Policy and Climate Change

SchoolCardiff School of Geography and Planning
Department CodeGEOPL0
Module CodeCPT855
External Subject CodeF810
Number of Credits20
Language of DeliveryEnglish
Module Leader Dr Andrew Kythreotis
SemesterAutumn Semester
Academic Year2016/7

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

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 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.


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:


Subject-specific skills:


Employability skills

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 group presentations account for 25% of the module’s mark (20% of this is based on individual input and 5% on the group as a whole). They will allow students to demonstrate evidence of knowing and understanding key environmental policy issues covered in the module and core readings and to encourage them to expand their knowledge of contemporary environmental policy issues, both as an individual and working in a group. The presentations will be assessed by the module team and will include assessment of the performance of the individual and the group as a whole. The principal aims of the presentations are to provide an opportunity for students:

  1. to engage with and expand upon the module materials both as an individual and as a group; and

  2. to demonstrate not only an understanding of current environmental and climate policy debates, but to critically engage with these in an innovative and reflective way.


    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:

  3. 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);

  4. clarity of communication.


    The principal aims of the assessed work are to:

  5. provide an opportunity for students to develop and demonstrate a detailed understanding of current environmental issues;

  6. 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

  7. to develop written communication skills.

Assessment Breakdown

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

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. The taught component is completed by analysing the complex challenges posed by climate change to global food security. In the final week we move onto the assessed presentations.

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.

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