Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Environmental Issues in International Relations

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT International Relations

DESCRIPTION During the past four decades environmental issues have become a key international concern. Stakeholders such as the states themselves, NGOs and civil society have been involved in raising awareness and in participating in on-going talks and negotiations on regional and global levels.

Providing both a theoretical framework and practical case studies, this course sets out to examine the issues involved, the contribution made by critical players and assesses the implications for international relations and the world.

Study-Unit Aims:

Awareness of the key theories, issues, causes and risks of global environmental degradation Ability to explore IR theory in view of empirical/scientific evidence. Ability to examine the historical and ideological context in which environmental regimes rose. An appreciation of the crucial nature of environmental issues for foreign policy actors and the central role of environmental diplomacy in this regard.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

Knowledge of international environmental agreements and the outcome of the world conferences on the environment. Ability to ‘close read’ the texts of key environmental agreements and to critique them. An ability to understand the North-South divide in multilateral environmental processes. Show an understanding of the importance of environmental issues in relations to global security threats (ex water conflicts& food security).

2. Skills:

Familiarisation with the main relevant nternational institutions and agreements. Critically analyze the role of non-state actors and the role played by multi-stakeholder discussions. Ability to understand the difficulties to coordinate efforts and agree on common actions to address global environmental concerns. An ability to carry out research on the effectiveness of the UN environmental machinery.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- O’Neill, Kate (2017) The Environment and International Relations, 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press: UK.
- Nicholson, S. and Wapner, P. (2015) Global Environmental Politics: From Person to Planet, Routledge: UK.

Supplementary Readings:

- Berstein, S. (2006) “Environment, Economy, and Global Environment Governance” In Stubbs, R., Underhill, G.R.D. (Ed.). Political Economy and the Changing Global Order. Oxford: UK. p. 246-258.
- Brown, O. Hammill, A. & McLeman, R. (2007) “Climate change as the ‘new’ security threat: implications for Africa”. International Affairs 8: 6, pp 1141–1154.
- Bulkeley H., Andonova L., Betsill M., Compagnon D., Hale T. Hoffman M., Newell P., Paterson M., Roger C., and Vandeveer S. (2014) Transnational Climate Change Governance. Cambridge University Press.
- DeSombre, E.R. (2017) Global Environmental Institutions, 2nd Edition Routledge: UK.
- Dimitrov R. (2016) The Paris Agreement on Climate Change: Behind Closed Doors.
- Global Environmental Politics 2016 16(3), (p.1-11) available online at:
- Greene, Owen, (2005), “Environmental Issues”, in Baylis, J. & Smith S. The Globalisation of World Politics: An introduction to International Relations. UK: Oxford University Press (pp 451-478).
- Joyner, C.C. (2005) “Rethinking International Environmental Regimes: What Role for Partnership Coalitions?” Journal of International Law and International Relations 1(1-2), pp. 89-119.
- Kurbalija. J. (2007). Quick Diplomatic Reponse. Malta and Geneva: DiploFoundation. Available online
- Wapner, P. (1997). “Governance in Global Civil Society”. In Young, O.R. (Ed.). Global Governance: Drawing insights from the Environmental Experience. MIT Press: Massachusetts.
- Worldwatch Institute (2005) State of the World: Global Security. (special edition) Earthscan: London.
- Zelli F. and van Asselt H. (2013) Introduction: The Institutional Fragmentation of Global Environmental Governance: Causes, Consequences, and Responses Global Environmental Politics 13 (3) (p.1-13) available online:


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Classwork Yes 20%
Assignment Yes 80%

LECTURER/S Simone Borg
Marguerite Camilleri
Alan Deidun

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.