Environmental laws for new and renewable energy could increase greenhouse gas emissions

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There are many laws in place today that strive to reduce the emission of those greenhouse gases. The UN has the Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol. Korea has a range of legal measures, not least of which is the Framework for Low Carbon, Green Growth. The European Union has embraced multiple legal solutions to greenhouse gas emissions. Most of those legal frameworks focus on either improving energy efficiency or on the incubation of new and renewable energy sources. These laws assume that more green energy and improved energy efficiency will help reduce the causes of climate change.

However, the point of this article is to document that the various legal efforts such as the UN Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol and the collective actions of the EU and Korea to draft similar and stronger legal framework will not be enough of a defense against anthropogenic risks to climate change. Further, this article endeavors to reveal how these laws might in fact exacerbate global emissions unless additional legal structures are put in place.

The legal risks come from governments pursuing new and renewable energy with mandates or requirements to develop such energy even if they are not commercially viable. The legal risks also come from slack to dysfunctional policing methods in international agreements like the UN’s Convention on Climate Change and its Protocol. The legal risk comes when developing countries can remain in compliance under such international agreements and yet have no legal duty to avoid using more fossil fuels to power their industrial development if warranted by ‘national circumstances’.

The current legal frameworks that support the eradication of greenhouse gases are incomplete. As drafted, there remain substantial risks that energy supplies will increase, their prices will fall, and overall consumption of all types of energy will rise. In that scenario, even greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels could be consumed in greater quantities than today.

A solution to this problem must be found to ensure the promise of the UN Convention on Climate Change to limit and reverse the anthropogenic impact on the global climate. This article highlights the legal problems of the current laws and explores a potential solution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-507
Number of pages74
JournalChungnam Law Review (충남대학교 법학연구소)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2012


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