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International, environmental and space law

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The module focuses on the institutions and governance of international, environmental and space law, and explores issues of fairness, justice, voice and the challenges that arise from the changing nature of international governance. You'll develop your understanding of the transition of international law into global governance. You'll study humanity’s impact on the global and outer space environment, and the governance mechanisms designed to manage that impact. You'll also learn about what the law means for you individually and for the societies in which we live, as well as recognise where international law and policy is failing to protect the vulnerable or to enable social justice, equality, and equity in the global society.

What you will study

In this module you'll explore the institutions of global governance, using environmental governance and the governance of outer space as topics of exploration. You'll examines these institutions and the regime through the context of justice and fairness particularly with regards to the Global South. You'll learn how to prepare an environmental case study and how to read and prepare policy briefs and policy papers.

You'll also explore environmental law, the challenges of climate change, the issues of climate injustice, and the possible remedies to it. This will include learning about planetary protection, the diversifying nature of space activities and those conducting them (as well as the need to diversify the space industry workforce) and the issues relating to resource use in the global commons (including outer space).

The module is divided into the following nine units and they all highlight the issues of participation, fairness, and justice in the global order:

Unit 1
You'll learn about the foundations of the international system, the sources of international law, and the key actors.

Unit 2
The focus is on the Global North-South divide, beginning with the impact of colonialism and the acquisition of territory by European powers. It will highlight the inequalities of the international system and the challenges that face the Global South.

Unit 3
You'll focus on international governance through treaties exploring the governance of climate change from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to the Paris Climate change conference and beyond.

Unit 4
You'll explore the place of international courts in the international system and the change that they have brought to the way that the international system is governed. The unit will use transboundary pollution, rights of nature, and human rights litigation to explore the global governance through international courts.

Unit 5
In this unit you're introduced to nature-based solutions to the climate emergency, and you'll learn about the proposed amendment to the Statute of the International Criminal Court, adding Ecocide as a new international crime. You'll also learn how to produce an environmental case study in the form of a script for a podcast.

Unit 6
You'll be introduced to the core concepts of the governance of outer space, from the Outer Space Treaty to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) and more.

Unit 7
You'll look more specifically at the issues of planetary protection and nascent environmental issues such as space debris, examining the connections with terrestrial environmental issues and governance.

Unit 8
You'll examine the diversity of space actors (or lack of) – in the sense of the organisations, companies, and states engaged in space activities – and the people who comprise those entities.

Unit 9
You'll explore the governance of resource utilisation in the global commons, which includes outer space.
 

Entry requirements

If you are new to study at university level, or are returning after some time, we recommend that you first study an OU level 1 law module such as Criminal law and the courts (W111) or Civil justice and tort law (W112), unless you are a graduate entry student.

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

Preparatory work

You might find the following resources are useful preparation for this module:

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access and tutor support.

You will need

You will have the option to record an oral presentation as part of your assessed work on this module. We strongly recommend that you use a headset with a microphone, as using an external or integrated microphone and speakers could result in a poor quality recording.

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 (10.15 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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They will help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • providing individual guidance, whether that is for general study skills or specific module content.
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

Assessment

The assessment for this module will be by two tutor-marked assignments, one interactive computer marked assignment and one end-of-module assessment. 

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying W260 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

International, environmental and space law starts once a year – in February. This page describes the module that will start in February 2023. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2030.

Course work includes:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school