Law, Policy and Sustainability (SUST5005)


This unit examines how policy-makers engage with and implement policies and legal requirements for regulating ecologically sustainable development. Meeting the needs of a growing global population while at the same time maintaining the health of the environment, which provides the life support system for humanity, is the central policy challenge of the 21st century. Key sustainability challenges include: avoiding dangerous climate change, safeguarding biological diversity, providing food security, coping with resource scarcity, and promoting green technology including low-carbon energy generation. These issues provide acute challenges for governments given that they cut across a range of policy areas, and require long-term planning rather than short-term decision-making. The unit examines how policy-makers at international, national and sub-national scales consider and respond to sustainability issues. Students will be introduced to: the role of analysis (economic, legal, political, scientific and social etc) in providing an evidence base for decisions; the variety of instruments and institutions available for policy delivery; how the lobbying process influences policy determination; and effectiveness of policy design and implementation. The unit also examines how decision-making is influenced by stakeholders, including industry, nongovernmental organisations and citizens. It will be seen that sustainability policy design and implementation in the real world involves reconciling competing agendas and interests, and that trade-offs are often made that may strengthen or weaken the effectiveness of sustainability policies. Offered through the Sydney Law School, this unit introduces students to the legal imperatives (both international and national) which inform and mandate policy choices.

Our courses that offer this unit of study

Further unit of study information


Intensive classes for 4 full days in October


Class presentation and short essay (1,500-2,000 w, 20%) and long essay (6,000 w, 80%)

Faculty/department permission required?


Unit of study rules



Additional Information

This unit of study involves essay-writing. Academic writing skills equivalent to HSC Advanced English or significant consultation via the Writing Hub is assumed.

Study this unit outside a degree

Non-award/non-degree study

If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

Cross-institutional study

If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.