Environment and Sustainable Development

School: School of Government
International Development Department

Modular value: 20 credits

Aim of the Module

In 2015, global leaders committed themselves to 17 Sustainable Development Goals, putting sustainable development at the heart of the global development endeavour. Climate change, degraded natural resources and the distribution of power and resources challenge poverty reduction efforts. This module introduces students to key concepts, literature and debates to investigate relationships between poverty and the environment, drawing on political ecology, environmental economics and common property theory. The module is informed by the 2015 book by the convenor, Dr Nunan, ‘Understanding Poverty and the Environment: Analytical Frameworks and Approaches’, published by Routledge.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module you will:

  • Be able to critically engage with and understand the complexity of sustainable development issues.
  • Be familiar with the key concepts and terminology commonly used in sustainable development.
  • Understand and be able to critically compare and contrast the main principles and values of the three main ‘pillars’ of sustainable development:  economy, ecology and society.
  • Understand the philosophical and political history of the emergence of sustainable development and the purposes and negotiations involved in the creation and processes of key international conventions and events guiding approaches to addressing sustainable development issues.  

Teaching and learning approach

The module will be delivered using a range of teaching and learning methods in a highly participatory environment, including interactive lectures, group discussions, student presentations, case studies, videos and invited speakers.

Topics covered include:

  • Sustainable development: concept, principles and critiques
  • Sustainable development and poverty reduction
  • Institutions, livelihoods and the environment
  • Political ecology: challenging narratives of environmental degradation
  • Economics and sustainable development: an introduction
  • Natural resource governance: theory and practice
  • The natural resource curse, economic growth and conflict: debates and evidence
  • Climate change: mitigation, international negotiations and threats to developing countries; adaptation responses and plans
  • Environmental and social impact assessment


  • Presentation worth 10% of the marks
  • 4-page policy briefing worth 40% of marks
  • 3,000 word essay, worth 50% of the marks

The presentation topics will be drawn from the session plan and will enable students to actively engage with material, theory and ideas.

Related courses:

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.