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Spring 2022 Course

Climate Change and the Politics of International Law

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: Any Day Take-Home

As climate change has come to be seen as an urgent global problem, there has been a turn to international law for solutions. The resulting involvement of international lawyers in developing responses to climate change in an unequal world has been a deeply contested project. This course explores the varied roles that international lawyers and international institutions have played in shaping responses to climate change and the shifting historical contexts in which they have done so. We will study some of the competing projects and strategies that have been developed by international lawyers in relation to climate change over the past decades, such as drafting declarations and negotiating treaties, using trade and investment agreements as a basis for private actors to challenge state regulatory responses to climate change, expanding the role of the Security Council to address climate-related risks to international peace and security, engaging in transnational climate litigation, creating a new international crime of ecocide, facilitating the creation of new patents for climate-ready crops, and enabling public-private partnerships to support geoengineering fixes. We will explore how the relative strengths of states, corporations, philanthropists, and civil society organizations in different international fora have influenced the direction of new treaties, litigation strategies, security agendas, and multilateral projects. The readings will include texts from law, history, political economy, and postcolonial theory in order to interrogate the broader narratives of climate change that are used to justify particular technical legal projects. Throughout, we will ask whether the involvement of international law and international lawyers in the politics of climate change has been a good thing, and if so, for whom.

Note: This course will meet from Monday, February 21 to Wednesday, April 6, 2022.