Human Rights and Climate Change

Subject LAWS70452 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2016.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: The total class time is between 24 and 26 hours.
Total Time Commitment:

The pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


For more information:

Phone: +61 3 8344 6190

Subject Overview:

This subject will provide a state-of-the-art, up-to-date overview of the phenomenon of climate change and how it affects the enjoyment of human rights. While all human rights issues will be addressed in the subject, an emphasis will be placed on climate displacement, an understanding of the dynamics of climate displacement, the countries that are now and will in future be most heavily affected and the legal and policy measures that will be required to ensure that all climate-displaced persons are afforded rights-based and viable solutions to their displacement. By approaching this vexing issue in this manner, the subject will provide students with an in-depth understanding of the legal issues involved, how they can be invoked and where work is under way today to protect human rights in the era of climate change in which we all now live. There will be an emphasis on several of the most affected countries, including Bangladesh, Kiribati, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Principal topics include:

  • Climate change and human rights: theory, perspectives and predictions
  • The reality of the human rights impacts of climate change
  • International law and climate change
  • Housing, land and property rights dimensions of climate displacement
  • Climate change solutions in practice: protecting the rights of communities threatened by climate change; role-play classroom exercises on resolving climate displacement
  • Human rights mechanisms for addressing climate displacement
  • Land acquisition as a primary solution to climate displacement
  • Classroom debate on a new convention on human rights and climate change: good or bad idea?
Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced understanding the phenomenon of climate change, its likely scale, the countries most heavily affected, how it manifests and the role of international human rights law in finding solutions to resolve climate displacement
  • Have a sophisticated appreciation of the problems and the potential of international law, in particular human rights law, with respect to addressing climate displacement and the human rights of those affected
  • Understand the particular human rights challenges facing the most heavily affected countries, including Bangladesh, Kiribati, Maldives, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and how these may best be addressed through a legal and human rights approach
  • Understand the key actors in the area of climate displacement including human rights treaty bodies, UN agencies, national governments, civil society actors and affected communities
  • Broadly understand the complex relationships between climate change, displacement and the application of human rights and other laws in the search for solutions
  • Be able to directly apply international human rights laws to discrete situations of climate displacement.
  • Take-home examination (100%) (20-23 November)
  • 10,000 word research paper (100%) (13 January 2016) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator
Prescribed Texts:

Core subject materials will be provided free of charge to all students. Some subjects require further texts to be purchased. Details regarding any prescribed texts will be provided prior to the commencement of the subject.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:

This subject has a quota of 30 students. Please refer to the website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Related Course(s): Graduate Diploma in Environmental Law
Graduate Diploma in Human Rights Law
Graduate Diploma in International Law
Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies
Master of Commercial Law
Master of Environmental Law
Master of Human Rights Law
Master of Law and Development
Master of Laws
Master of Public and International Law
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Tailored Specialisation

Download PDF version.