University of Technology Sydney

79035 Sustainability and the Law

Requisite(s): (70110 Introduction to Law AND (76110c Introduction to Public International Law OR 70108c Public International Law))
The lower case 'c' after the subject code indicates that the subject is a corequisite. See definitions for details.
These requisites may not apply to students in certain courses.
There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.
Anti-requisite(s): 76024 Environmental Law AND 77794 International Environmental Law


Today, the world is facing increasing sustainability challenges that threaten the natural environment and jeopardise the well-being of the human population. The impact of unsustainable practices on the natural and man-made environment are both widespread, and far reaching. These range from the loss of biodiversity, destruction of millions of hectares of forests, through to wide-spread air, land, fresh water and marine pollution and climate change. In addition to poverty, water and food scarcity, lack of sanitation, housing and education, humans around the planet are being subject to violent conflict, lack of access to health and energy services, threats to indigenous peoples lands and cultures, and exposed to the rising spread of vector borne and other diseases. All too often, unsustainable production and consumption patterns are both the cause and the casualty of such challenges. In addition to population growth, unceasing demand for fossil fuels, unchecked expansion of agricultural lands into vulnerable ecosystems, other human practices are resulting in wide-spread environmental, human, and economic crises. In addition to climate change, the most recent example of this is the global COVID19 pandemic. Widely understood to have originated in “wet markets” of Wuhan, China, these unsustainable practices are underpinned by the illegal international trade in wild animals.

Transformative, global sustainability changes are needed to protect both nature and the human population. Accordingly, students examine the notion of “sustainability” and its corollary, “unsustainability”. The essential role of law in facilitating sustainable transitions is explored in greater detail. This includes key aspects of international law, international environmental and climate change law, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students evaluate the effectiveness of these international legal and policy instruments in fostering sustainability transitions. Practical insights are gained by evaluating a selection of case studies based on the SGDs across three key areas – environmental, social, and economic. This provides an understanding of how theoretical rules and principles operate in practice.

This subject is essential for those students who have an academic and/or professional interest in understanding the intersections between sustainability and law and the role of law in promoting sustainability transitions.

Students’ expanded knowledge is readily translatable to complementary areas of study, including international environmental law, climate change law and international trade law.

Detailed subject description.

Access conditions

Note: The requisite information presented in this subject description covers only academic requisites. Full details of all enforced rules, covering both academic and admission requisites, are available at access conditions and My Student Admin.