The EULawSD module consisted of: (i) a series of keynote lectures by leading scholars or practitioners; (ii) an annual 40-hour course, characterised by frontal lectures, analyses of case studies, and discussion groups; (iii) a series of keynote lectures hosting multidisciplinary discussions with experts and practitioners from different sectors; (iv) a dedicated website and a series of webinars with experts and practitioners in different fields of EU law and sustainable development.
The 40-hour course was structured around 9 core themes.
Theme I | Fundamentals of Sustainable Development
These lectures introduced the basic interdisciplinary notions underpinning sustainable development, addressing the practical and conceptual challenges stemming from the environment and development conundrum. At the same time, the lectures provided some preliminary background to the history and politics of international negotiations on sustainable development as well as on the emergence and evolution of the principle of sustainable development in international law.
Theme II | International and EU Law on the Principle of Sustainable Development
These lectures focused on sustainable development as a key principle underlying large areas of EU primary and secondary legislation. The lectures first introduced sustainable development as a principle of international and EU law, describing its components (e.g. integration, intra- and inter-generational equity, precaution, the polluter-pays-principle, co-operation, sustainable use of natural resources) and the way it has been interpreted and used by international and regional courts, such as especially by the International Court of Justice, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights, other regional courts and international arbitral tribunals. The lectures then analysed the EU commitment to sustainable development as enshrined in the European Treaties and translated into secondary legislation (focusing on the emphasis of EU sources of law on the need to ensure policy integration and policy coherence), and sought to clarify how the concept should be defined and implemented in EU law in the light of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Theme III | Mapping the Intersections I : EU, Common Market Law and Sustainable Economic Development
This group of lectures addressed the relationship between sustainable development and the Common Market of the EU, analysing European law and practice concerning the fundamental market freedoms and their relationship with SDGs 1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 17, while also looking at their wider implications for environmental sustainability under SDGs 6-13, 14 and 15. The lectures also made reference to some of the EU policies and legislative activities addressing crucial socio-economic challenges faced by the EU, including high unemployment, fragile growth, lack of competitiveness, and the current investment gap.
Theme IV | Mapping the Intersections II: EU Law, Global Poverty and Sustainable Development Challenges
This group of lectures analysed the response of EU law to new global trends and challenges posed by globalisation, including poverty, hunger, conflict, epidemic diseases and the increasingly complex governance of international trade. The lectures particularly analysed the contribution of the EU external action to the objectives of the 2030 Agenda, focusing specifically on SDGs 1, 2, 3, 16 and 17 and considering the recent proposal for a New European Consensus on Development which seeks to align EU development policy with the five main pillars of the 2030 Agenda: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships.
Theme V | Mapping the Intersections III: EU Law, Planetary Boundaries and Environmental Sustainability
This group of lectures was dedicated to exploring the relationship between EU law, policy and practice and global environmental protection, not only with respect to the EU’s environmental acquis (particularly relevant for SDGs 6, 14 and 15) but also considering other crucial sectors and issues such as agriculture, chemical regulation, air pollution, and urban sustainability (SDG 2, 3, 6, 11, 12), as well as cross-cutting themes such as access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters. In doing so, the lectures explored the interlinkages between economic development, wellbeing and environmental sustainability and the extent to which EU legal strategies are consonant with the need to achieve policy integration and coherence across these three dimensions.
Theme VI | Mapping the Intersections IV: EU Law, Climate Change and Energy
These lectures addressed the role of the European Union as the largest energy importer in the world and one of the most important actors in the global struggle against climate change. After an interdisciplinary introduction dealing with the science and economics of climate change, the lectures specifically focused on the participation of the EU in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as on its internal legislative policies and strategies to facilitate a shift to a low-carbon economy, reduce dependence on external suppliers and achieve energy security, and promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources (SDGs 7, 13).
Theme VII | Mapping the Intersections V: EU Law and the Protection of Marine Resources and Polar Oceans
These lectures focused on two crucial aspects of EU environmental law and policy that are strictly related to the implementation of SDG 14, namely: (i) the conservation and sustainable use of seas and marine resources in EU maritime areas; and (ii) the governance of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, particularly the Arctic and Southern oceans. The lectures identified the complex and multi-faceted legal challenges relating to oceans, seas and coastal areas, the role of EU laws and policies in protecting coastal and marine waters and marine living resources, and the contribution of the EU to the implementation of international instruments relating to the marine environment (including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Regional Seas Convention and the Agreement on Port State Measures).
Theme VIII | Mapping the Intersections VI: EU Law, Human Rights and Democracy
These lectures focused on the role of EU law in upholding fundamental rights, justice and the rule of law, consistent with the targets outlined in SDG 16 but also touching on SDGs 1, 3, 5 and 10. In particular, the lectures addressed both the protection of fundamental rights within the EU and the contribution of the EU to the promotion of human rights and democracy in non-EU countries. In doing so, they took into account the underlying principles established by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union, as well as recent legal developments stemming from new trends and challenges facing the EU and the world at large, such as systemic threats to the rule of law and rapid economic, technological, labour market, social and demographic change.
Theme IX | Mapping the Intersections VII: Civil Liability for Environmental Harm: A European and Comparative Perspective
These lectures were aimed at analysing the role of tort law in controlling environmental pollution and risk, an issue that is closely linked to some of the targets outlined in SDGs 15, 16 and 17. More specifically, the lectures focused not only on the provisions contained in the EU Environmental Liability Directive, that deviate from the standard civil liability rules, but also on the national systems of liability and restoration for damage to natural resources. On the one hand, the lectures clarified the meaning of the “polluter pays” principle, as a device to strengthen legal remedies for environmental harm, a type of detriment not susceptible to being easily placed within traditional categories of legally protected interests. On the other hand, a comparative survey was used in order to explain the different ways in which tortious liability systems of the EU Member States have contributed to environmental protection, providing incentives to comply with regulatory measures.