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 Richard Cowell
SemesterAutumn Semester
Academic Year2013/4

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:

 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 multiple choice tests and a written essay produce a well-argued 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 eight reading based seminar sessions from week 2 onwards, 16 multiple choice questions will be set which test the knowledge and critical understanding of the reading. In addition, 4 generic questions 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:

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:

 The principal aims of the assessed work are to:

Multiple Choice Test - Weekly questions on core reading, to be administrated via Learning Central (25%)
Essay (75%)

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs) Period Week
Written Assessment 25
Multiple Choice Test
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. We analyze 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

Text books

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

 Sources of information 

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


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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