What are the most important topics within Energy and Environmental Law?

The environmental and energy-related issues facing the world today are numerous and complex. These issues need meticulous legal regulation to ensure that societies continue to have access to the energy they need without further harm to the environment.

With so many wide-ranging challenges within the interconnected spheres of energy and environmental law, what are the most important topics for those aiming to shape regulation moving forward? Here we explore three key areas of focus for anyone looking to further a career in either field.

1. The diversity of international environmental law

The way the environmental impact of energy is being regulated differs globally. Recent research reveals global progress; while the number of countries with strong policy frameworks for sustainable energy has more than tripled (2010 and 2017)¹, there’s still a long way to go before international laws are robust enough to preserve the environment the world over. Even the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme asserts that we won’t successfully mitigate climate change, reduce pollution or prevent species and habitat loss until these laws are properly adhered to². 

Therefore, any exploration of environmental and energy law should consider a multi-juristictional approach: understanding international variations, the geopolitics surrounding them and the extent to which they are enforced.

2. The role of nuclear energy

With approximately 450 reactors globally, nuclear energy provides roughly 11 per cent of the world’s power³. While it’s not a renewable energy source, nuclear power is cleaner than fossil fuels; to generate 2563 TWh of electricity, nuclear produces 2,202million tonnes less carbon dioxide emissions than burning coal⁴.

Many believe we cannot meet global carbon emission reduction targets without nuclear power, but the industry faces a significant challenge in the form of facility maintenance. In recent years, the number of old nuclear reactors in need of decommissioning has outpaced the construction of new reactors⁵ which, if it continues, could seriously hamper efforts to fight climate change.

Nuclear energy and its regulation will undoubtedly have an important part to play in the world’s energy mix moving forward. Branches of energy and environmental law that govern nuclear energy include safety regulation and the lifecycle of nuclear power facilities.

Recommended read: Three reasons to study Energy and Environmental Law

3. The return on investment of energy projects

Energy is a commodity, and the generation and trade of energy through traditional fossil fuels has always been a lucrative business. 

However, this could start to change with the introduction of new environmental levies designed to offset the impacts of climate change and deter investment in carbon-heavy energy. Green action groups claim that charging oil, gas and coal companies a ‘climate damages tax’ could raise $300 billion a year for communities most affected by climate-related natural disasters⁶.

Whatever form new energy infrastructure takes, it’s vital that the laws governing it consider its effect on the environment alongside its financial viability and profitability. There will always be a need to make a profit, but now there is a balance to be struck between environmental impact and the amount of energy produced.  

Explore key issues within energy and environmental law

These are just some of the key themes which are explored in detail on our Online LLM Energy and Environmental Law. Develop a solid grasp of the issues at the heart of both legal disciplines on an international scale and prepare for the next stage of a career tackling the challenges of the global energy crisis. 

Find out more about the Online LLM Energy and Environmental Law and the topics covered by downloading a brochure today.

¹UNKNOWN. (2018) Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy 2018 [online] Available at: <https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/energy/publication/rise-2018> [Accessed 10.09.2019]

²UNKNOWN. (2019) Environmental Rule of Law: First Global Report [online] Available at: <https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/assessment/environmental-rule-law-first-global-report> [Accessed 10.09.2019]

³UNKNOWN. (2019) Nuclear Power in the World Today [online] Available at: < https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/nuclear-power-in-the-world-today.aspx> [Accessed 09.08.2019]

⁴UNKNOWN. (2019) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Avoided Through Use of Nuclear Energy [online] Available at: <https://www.world-nuclear.org/nuclear-basics/greenhouse-gas-emissions-avoided.aspx> [Accessed 10.09.2019]

⁵UNKNOWN. (2019) World Nuclear Performance Report 2019 [online] Available at: <https://www.world-nuclear.org/getmedia/d77ef8a1-b720-44aa-9b87-abf09f474b43/performance-report-2019.pdf.aspx> [Accessed 10.09.2019]

⁶GOERING, L. (2018) Fossil Fuel Tax Proposed to Cover Rising Costs of Wild Weather [online] Available at: <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climatechange-disaster-energy-tax/fossil-fuel-tax-proposed-to-cover-rising-costs-of-wild-weather-idUSKBN1O91AD> [Accessed 10.09.2019]