International Climate Law



2017 Fall

About This Class

Students at Vermont Law School have the opportunity to learn about international climate change law and policy through both theory and first-hand observation. Selected students do applied learning in international environmental law by representing VLS as a non-governmental observer delegation at the annual Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The delegation is led by Professor Tracy Bach. Student delegates are enrolled in VLS’s juris doctor and masters programs, including the MELP, MERL, and LLM degrees, and come from both our residential and distance learning programs. This three-credit course is organized around two components: a weekly class for the full semester and one week of onsite experiential learning at COP23, which will be held in Bonn, Germany from November 6 – 17, 2017. Classwork covers a range of topics, from the underlying theory and practice of public international law focused on environmental problem solving to specific topics covered by the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, and Paris Agreement, including mitigation and adaptation strategies, loss and damage, land use and agriculture, capacity building, and climate finance. While onsite at the COP, VLS delegation members attend official sessions and side events, follow negotiation issues, and blog about their observations and analyses. VLS students also engage in service learning by supporting a least developed country (LDC) delegation in the COP negotiations through pre-COP briefing memos, COP session note taking, and daily briefings. In these ways, students in this hybrid classroom/experiential course come away from it with an understanding of international environmental lawmaking informed by direct experience. Students should be aware that this course is writing intensive. It includes two briefing memos submitted before the COP; blogging before and during the COP; note taking at the COP; and a short reflective memo upon return from the COP. In addition, students are evaluated on their contributions to the classroom discussions, active engagement at the COP, and overall teamwork. The method of evaluation is based on these writing projects and activity at the COP, not an exam. The AWR option is not offered for this course. During the on-site component in Germany, students will represent VLS as members of its Observer Delegation accredited by the United Nations. As such, they will be expected to comport themselves in an appropriate manner, attend all assigned COP sessions and side events, and contribute to the delegation's social media presence. Students agree that by registering for the course and being selected for the delegation, they will attend COP23 in November, 2017. Please note: Attendance at COP23 will require students to miss one week of classes in mid-November. Students will work with Professor Bach to minimize the impact that their COP23 absence has on their other classes. Also please bear in mind that students arrange and pay for their own travel expenses to and from Germany, scheduling their travel to arrive the day before their COP23 week begins and to depart after their COP23 week has finished. We will strive to keep our costs down by sharing a living space and meals; students can estimate approximately $2000 for airfare, shared lodging, and shared meals (breakfast and dinner). Finally, this course has a limited enrollment of 10 students. It is because the UNFCCC Secretariat restricts our observer delegation to 5 student members per week or 10 students total. The selection process for this course begins when you register. All students who register are automatically waitlisted. Students on the list are contacted by Professor Bach, who makes the selection decision based on: 1. relevant course work, such as International Law, International Environmental Law, and Climate Change and the Law (whether taught on campus or via distance learning); 2. an application form that includes your VLS transcript and 1 VLS reference; 3. a timed writing sample, and 4. an interview with Professor Bach. If you should have any questions about the course, please contact Professor Bach directly at

Class Code



Environmental Law