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Environmental policy in an international context

This innovative module explores the causes and consequences of a range of environmental problems and the main policies that have been formulated to address them. They include climate change, ozone depletion, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and unsustainable development. You’ll learn how political divisions, inequalities and contentions over values and knowledge can hinder political responses to environmental problems. The module concludes by examining some of the policy options that might lead to a ‘green future’. You’ll find this module ideal if you wish to develop a policy-relevant understanding of environmental problems for career development or personal interest.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
3 10 6

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

The contemporary world faces an unprecedented environmental challenge. Whether we consider global problems, such as climate change or ozone depletion, or more regional and local problems, such as loss of species, biodiversity and livelihoods, effective policy responses are urgently sought. Yet the global reach of this environmental challenge, and the complexity of the causes, effects and potential solutions, means that policy responses must take place within an international context. Environmental problems cannot be viewed in isolation, as they are deeply entwined with issues of development, international justice and personal responsibility.

The module is divided into the following six blocks of study, each of which lasts three weeks. Your study each week will include a book chapter as a core component, accompanied by a range of online videos, audio programmes and web-based interactive resources.

Block 1: Climate change
This introductory block uses climate change, one of the biggest and most complex of today’s environmental problems, to help give you an overview of many of the issues, problems and ideas that recur throughout the module. You’ll consider a range of perspectives on environmental problems, including the relationship between scientific evidence and policy and the role of economics techniques in environmental policy responses. By the end of the block, you will be equipped with a ‘toolkit’ of concepts and ideas which will enable you to analyse other environmental problems.

Block 2: International environmental politics
You’ll examine the role of the state in international environmental negotiations, and ask why, given the urgent nature of international environmental problems, states have found it difficult to agree stronger and more effective environmental policies. Game theory will be demonstrated when examining international negotiations on environmental problems, namely climate change, ozone depletion and the trades in hazardous wastes and endangered species.

Block 3: Natural resource management
You’ll start by looking at the problem of forest conservation, including some of the key ideas that shape international forest conservation policy, for example, policies on illegal logging and timber certification. You’ll also consider biodiversity conservation policy, particularly with respect to the contentious issue of invasive species. Your study of natural resource management will conclude with the issue of sustainable agriculture.

Block 4: Global governance
A full appreciation of environmental policy requires an understanding of the broader structures of governance within which environmental problems are generated and environmental policy is made. You’ll gain an understanding of the role of some major international economic institutions in shaping the structures and processes of global governance, in particular, the global economy. You’ll also explore some of the environmental policy responses of business corporations as well as the role of civil society organisations in lobbying for stronger environmental policies.

Block 5: Sustainable development
As sustainable development is a concept that has informed environmental policy making since the 1980s, you’ll consider its different meanings and how it can be attained. You will explore some of the policies made to implement the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). You’ll also analyse some global and historical processes, namely population growth and the development of engineering technology, and their role in sustainable development policy.

Block 6: Greening the future
By block 6, you’ll have a thorough grasp of some important environmental problems and an appreciation of some of the constraints to more effective policy responses. You’ll prepare for your end-of-module assessment (EMA) by revising some key ideas and concepts from earlier in the module. You’ll also encounter some policy options for a ‘green future’ by looking at the ideas of a green state, a green economy and green citizen. This involves a mixture of looking back as a student, and looking ahead as a citizen.

You’ll develop your skills as an independent learner, equipping you with both the intellectual and key study skills appropriate for OU level 3 study, and important communication skills, including how to present written material for different audiences.

Vocational relevance

This module both evaluates existing policies and considers some possible alternative policies for the future. As such, it is of relevance for anyone whose work addresses, directly or indirectly, environmental problems. This includes business people, civil servants, local authority professionals, town and country planners, teachers and college lecturers, especially those whose work deals with geography, politics and development studies.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

We aim to provide online tutorials and recordings of these will typically be made available. While you’re not obliged to attend any of these tutorials, you are strongly encouraged to take part.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) will require you to write a short essay and a policy report.

Future availability

Environmental policy in an international context starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2030.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU levels 1 and 2.

They are intended for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject. The following would be useful prior modules: Environment: sharing a dynamic planet (DST206), Environment and society (DD213) and International development: making sense of a changing world (TD223).

Academic writing, searching the internet, reading academic material, making notes, and thinking critically are all important skills developed in this module, and prior experience in these areas would be an advantage.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

Before commencing your studies, you may find it useful to follow coverage of environmental problems in the media.


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2030.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Joint loan applications

If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and, therefore, the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 24/05/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

You'll be provided with two textbooks and have access to a module website which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • interactive activities
  • film clips and audio programmes
  • assessment guide
  • online tutorials and forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD319 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.