GV3CJS-Climate Policy, Justice and Society

Module Provider: Geography and Environmental Science
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof Chuks Okereke

Email: c.okereke@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Climate change is one of the most urgent and complex challenges facing humanity today.  The problem is cross-cutting, involving almost all aspects of life including energy use, housing, water, food, transport and industrial activity. A key aspect of climate change is that those that are least responsible for the problem are the ones that suffer the most consequences. This module provides students the opportunity to explore on the one hand, the socio-political, economic and ethical challenges posed by climate change, and on the other hand, the effort being made by society at various scales  – i.e. local, national, and international levels –  to address the problem. Case studies include China, the UK, EU and a number of African countries. The role of businesses, NGOs as well as key disagreements between developed and developing countries are also highlighted.


The module aims to explore the various dimensions of climate change from geographical and political lenses, to establish why it is one of the most complex challenges facing humanity. It will expose students to various ways in which climate change challenges society at individual, organizational, national and international levels. The module explores the efforts being made by society at multiple scales to tackle the problem. These include international agreements, national regulations and targets, development policies, local community actions, business innovation, and public campaigns.  Specific focus is paid to the various ways in climate change problem and the efforts to address it raise complex questions about inequality, justice and fairness. Critically, students will be helped to gain deeper understanding of the challenges that dramatic climate change poses to existing political institutions and structures, and what drives the responses of those systems to the unsustainability of the current world order.

Assessable learning outcomes:

On completion of this module it is expected that a student will be able to:

  • Describe the history of international climate agreements and the politics that shaped their evolution.

  • Critically analyse the politics of climate change policy and governance at local organizational, national and international scales.

  • Critically evaluate the various dimensions of inequality, justice and fairness implicated in climate change and response effort by societies at various levels.

  • Critically evaluate the key theories and policy approaches to climate governance and international development.

  • Demonstrate research skills and a critical engagement with literature.

Additional outcomes:

The module also aims to encourage the development of skills of critical reading and oral communication. This will be achieved through students’ individual reading, research and contribution to seminars.

Outline content:

1. Introduction and module overview

2. Climate change as a complex and urgent societal challenge

3. Climate governance at international level: science, institutions and key actors

4. The politics of international climate negotiations from Kyoto to Paris

5. Climate politics and policy in developed countries: the EU, UK and USA

6. Climate politics and policy in developing countries: China, India and Africa

7. Local action on climate change: Cities and community action groups

8. Transnational climate governance: NGOs and climate movements

9. Business, industry and climate change: is corporate social responsibility an oxymoron?

10. Climate policy: implications for society.

Global context:

Climate change is arguably one of the most complex environment-development problems that the global community has to contend with. It poses fundamental challenges the economic structures and ideas that have underpinned global economic growth since industrial revolution. Climate change challenges business-as-usual politics and poses intractable problems for long-standing approaches to economic management, regulation, commerce, ethics, and international co-operation. The causes and effects of climate change are global in nature, therefore the entire global community needs to be engaged in the search for credible solutions. The impacts of climate change are severe and long-term so delay in action has far reaching consequences. And crucially, there are wide differences in the contributions of different countries to climate change, and their abilities to cope with climate impact.  World leaders have recently signed a global climate agreement in Paris, France, to replace the Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997. However, despite a lot of fanfare and pledges, achieving societal transformation to low carbon future remains very challenging.  Given, its complexity and the need for fundamental changes, it is not surprising that the effort to deal with climate change has thrown up questions about the nature and ethical basis of international political institutions in ways that have never been faced.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module will be taught through a combination of lectures, case studies, seminars and video material.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 30
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 80
Practical skills assessment 20

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Two hours.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Coursework and an examination

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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