autumn 2020
JUR-3622 International Environmental Law and Climate Change in the Arctic - 15 ECTS

Type of course

Master level. The course is given during the spring and the fall term.

Admission requirements

Students must be on master level and should have a basic knowledge of public international law and/or the law of the sea.

Students at the Integrated master´s degree programme in law may choose this course as a partial fulfillment of the requirements for the elective part of the programme's fifth year, cf. Programme Specification for the Master's Degree in Jurisprudence at the University of Tromsø (Studieplan for graden Master i rettsvitenskap ved Universitetet i Tromsø), Sec. 4.

Followed by necessary application and admission process, other students (such as exchange students) may also choose this course, cf. Regulations for the Elective Component in the Master's Degree Programme in Jurisprudence (Reglement for den valgfrie delen av masterstudiet i rettsvitenskap) (Regulation).

Students who do not have admission to the Master of Law-studies at the Faculty of Law must contact the Faculty for information about required qualifications and application process for this course.  

Course content

This course offers a broad introduction to international environmental law, after which students will gain a specialized insight into the legal framework applicable to the Arctic region. The Arctic region is environmentally vulnerable, and is thus greatly affected by climate change. Climate change threatens biodiversity, the livelihoods of Arctic indigenous peoples, and leads to sea level rises and changing weather patterns, amongst others. This, in turn, leads to increased shipping in the Arctic as well as fisheries moving up further North. The North West Passage and the Northern Sea Route will likely be used for commercial shipping in the near future, leading to increased risks of oil pollution in the vulnerable Arctic ecosystems.

International environmental law is a rapidly developing field that seeks to mitigate effects of climate change and protect the environment. It involves a multitude of multilateral treaties, declarations and other instruments of international law. This course aims to provide students with an introduction to the major concepts, cases and principles that together shape the body of international environmental law. Students will learn how these concepts and principles apply in the Arctic, especially in the context of climate change.

The course covers the following topics:

  • The international legal framework, including international environmental law, the law and institutional arrangements specifically applicable to the Arctic region (such as the Arctic Council), and the law of the sea.
  • Key principles and concepts of international environmental law, including the precautionary approach, the ecosystem approach, sustainable development, environmental impact assessments and marine protected areas.
  • The various dispute settlement procedures available to States in case of an international environmental dispute related to the Arctic region
  • Substantive areas of international environmental law, such as atmospheric protection and climate change regulations, the protection of the marine environment, biodiversity, fisheries and marine mammals.
  • The role of indigenous people in the Arctic in the context of climate change
  • The relationship between international environmental law and other branches of public international law, such as human rights law and trade law.
  • The remaining challenges in the Arctic, the scope and limits of international environmental law, and whether there is a need for an Arctic Treaty

Objectives of the course


Having passed the exam, the student shall have acquired:

  • Advanced knowledge of the international environmental legal framework applicable to the Arctic
  • Advanced knowledge of the principles and concepts of international environmental law, such as the precautionary approach, the ecosystem approach, environmental impact assessments, etc.
  • Advanced knowledge of the obligations under international environmental law to protect the environment in a context of climate change, such as atmospheric protection and the protection of biodiversity
  • Advanced knowledge of the obligations under the law of the sea relating to the protection of the marine environment in the Arctic
  • General knowledge of the dispute settlement procedures applicable to international environmental disputes in the Arctic
  • Knowledge of the role of indigenous peoples in the Arctic in relation to climate change
  • Knowledge of the Svalbard Treaty
  • Knowledge of the relationship between international environmental law and other branches of public international law


Having passed the exam, the student is able to

  • identify and analyze questions of theoretical and practical character in the international environmental law applicable to the Arctic
  • analyze critically and use various sources of information to structure and formulate scholarly and practical arguments
  • independently and critically interpret and apply the relevant sources of law
  • identify the limitations of the existing law applicable to the Arctic region
  • undertake an independent and critical research project relating to international environmental law applicable to the Arctic

General Competence:

Having passed the exam, the student:

  • can apply his/her knowledge to new legal scenarios
  • can communicate effectively, both orally and in the written form, about international environmental law issues related to the Arctic
  • knows how to write a scholarly paper, find relevant academic sources, and adhere to academic integrity
  • is able to demonstrate his/her ability to cooperate and work together in a group
  • masters the English language and terminology within this field of law
  • will be able to engage in one of the most complex legal challenges we face today

Language of instruction and examination


Teaching methods

This course uses interactive and dynamic teaching methods. The course will consist out of both lectures and seminars comprising a total of 30 hours. The course will include a practical exercise (in the form of a moot court, or otherwise) and student presentations of a small research project. Students are encouraged to participate actively during the lectures and seminars. Students are expected to be prepared for lectures and seminars by studying the corresponding literature of the curriculum. Students should study independently in periods when there are no lectures or seminars.

Students will write a research essay of 5 pages (double-spaced) about one of the topics made available to them. They should engage critically with their research question, demonstrate independent thinking, and structure their arguments accordingly. They are free to use the literature in the curriculum, but are also encouraged to find additional literature in academic books or journals. Students are expected to present their research projects in the form of an oral presentation to the rest of the class. The essay must be handed in before the presentation.


The course is assessed through a six hours closed book written school exam. The exam may include theoretical and/or scenario questions.

Students is allowed to bring into the examination room a specific treaty collection identified in advance by the Faculty of Law. The treaty collection may only contain underlining etc. in accordance with the Faculty's regulations on that matter. Students may also bring a dictionary, as long as it merely provides translations and no definitions. The Faculty must approve each students examination supports (treaty collection and dictionary) prior to the examination.

The grading scale of A to F is applied, where F constitutes fail.

Students who fail their examination are entitled to re-sit the examination, cf. Regulations for examinations at the University of Tromsø Sec.22.

Recommended reading/syllabus

Pensumliste for JUR-3622 Environmental law
  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 15
  • Course code: JUR-3622