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On Friday, April 14, 2017, in an interesting panel on the Emerging Law of Energy Transition moderated by Hari Osofsky and Jacqueline Peel, participants Elliot Diringer, Deepa Badrinarayana and Myles Culhane explored and discussed climate change and modern ways of energy transition.
Professor Hari M. Osofsky is the Robins Kaplan Professor of Law; the Faculty Director of the Energy Transition Lab; and the Director of the Joint Degree Program in Law, Science, and Technology at the University of Minnesota Law School.
Professor Jacqueline Peel, of the University of Melbourne Faculty of Law, is an expert in the field of environmental and climate change law. Her scholarship on these topics encompasses international, transnational and national dimensions, as well as inter-disciplinary aspects of the law/science relationship in the environmental field. Professor Peel is the author or co-author of five books and numerous articles on these topics.
Elliot Diringer is Executive Vice President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). He manages day-to-day operations of C2ES and helps direct its research, policy, outreach and communications efforts. Deepa Badrinarayana is an Associate Professor at Champan Uiversity School of Law, and Myles Culhane is Managing Counsel at Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy).
The panel first gave an overview of the Paris Agreement and emphasized the importance of this agreement. Paris is a hybrid agreement, which incorporates norms of energy transition and provides a platform for environmental protection. Energy is central to the climate, and greenhouse neutrality should be prioritized. Elliot characterized de-carbonization as an important factor of energy consumption and, citing coalmine construction as an example, stressed the importance of keeping climate change factors in consideration.
Talking about the Trump administration’s policies, the panel participants had different views. There will be an abrupt evolution in climate change policies from those of the Obama administration, some participants of the panel observed, while other participants were of the view that the new administration’s policy is not yet clear. However, the panel participants highlighting the importance of Paris Agreement agreed that it should be respected and given considerable attention, particularly by the U.S. administration.
The panel concurred that the global leadership of the U.S. has a huge affect on world politics, and climate change and global protection of the environment overall are no exceptions. With the change in U.S. leadership, policy regarding climate change in general will be affected. The panelists pointed out that with lesser U.S. commitment, global commitment will also decrease.
Myles Culhane pointed to the use of natural gas at the expense of coal. Myles predicted that natural gas usage would significantly increase in the forthcoming years, as the general consumption of energy rises. Accordingly, climate change should be a greater priority in government policies.
The panel stressed the importance of efforts to reduce emissions while ensuring effective production. Pressing market demands will drive toward de-carbonization, but there should also be proper incentives and regulations to encourage energy companies toward balancing production with protecting the climate. National governments should be provided with a set of policies to help set up expectations for behavior. Further research and development is also needed in order to find practical ways to protect against climate change and make proper use of energy resources.
Because unwise usage of natural resources can endanger people in the immediate area as well as having global climate effects, there should be an international cooperation on mutually-accepted solutions. The panel concurred that the cooperation of the major powers is essential to ensuring the practical usage of natural resources through technological advances that reduce emissions and protect the climate to the greatest extent possible.
Ahmad Shah Katawazai is a Research Associate at the Public International Law & Policy Group.