Sovereignty, trade, and legislation: The evolution of energy law in a changing climate | M Abraham-Dukuma | Energy Research & Social Science

Recent debates on climate change have necessitated a new seminal jurisprudence and proposition of constituents and core principles of energy law in the Anthropocene. The proposed principles depart from the traditional notion of energy law, which focused on rights and duties of key industry players for economic growth through optimal resource exploitation. Sovereignty over natural resources and sustainability are part of the proposed principles. This paper observes potential conflict with international trade rules at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) amidst other conceivable debatable issues. It critically examines the likely coexistence of trade rules, climate change objectives and sovereignty over natural resources through legislation considering emerging climate responsibility by corporate structures in the energy industry. Policy insights revolve around reforms to achieve symmetry between sovereignty, trade and climate objectives. Specifically, these include climate-conscious reforms in WTO law, incorporating positive energy industry obligations in climate deals and country-specific legislative reforms for achieving climate objectives. These may not prove to be easy tasks. The egregious problem of sovereignty needs delicate attention in construing how it relates with climate change measures, environmental policies at the WTO and sustainable development of energy resources. Reform processes at international and national law would have to be structured systematically to achieve desired results. The personalities and processes for reforms also need critical consideration.

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