Climate law – an essential aspect of climate research

The Research Council funds all types of climate research, from basic systemic research to research on impacts and mitigation measures in anticipation of the adjustments to society that will be needed in the wake of climate change.

“The project at the University of Oslo (UiO) is a prime example of how broad the scope of climate research needs to be. All aspects of society will need to be adapted and reconfigured in the face of climate changes – including how we handle legal issues,” says Fridtjof Unander, Executive Director of the Division for Energy, Resources and the Environment of the Research Council.

The Research Council has an overall interest in expanding the thematic scope of climate research, particularly with regard to the incorporation of social science approaches.

Climate and law

Climate change affects a number of specific law fields. Chief among these are environmental law, energy law and public international law. However, the fields of constitutional law, insurance law, international trade law and many others can come into play in connection with actions to prevent and mitigate climate change.

 

Climate law also includes interdisciplinary components such as natural science, philosophy and ethics and economics.

Knowledge-building and the establishment of a dynamic research environment targeting climate change has been a key objective of the project at UiO. The project has received funding under the large-scale programme, Climate change and impacts in Norway (NORKLIMA) at the Research Council of Norway.

The Kyoto agreement as research subject

The project manager, Professor Hans Christian Bugge of UiO, says that staying abreast of developments in a field of law that is growing so rapidly is a big job. The Kyoto protocol, which was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005, has entailed some unique legal challenges.

Of particular interest in terms of law is “the Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM), which entails that a nation such as Norway may finance emissions-reduction measures in developing countries

“The CDM poses a real legal challenge,” says Dr Bugge. The issue has been a key focus of the climate project at the Faculty of Law, specifically in a post-doctoral project carried out by Christina Voigt.

“It’s a subject that is both controversial and complicated. Our work has resulted in many articles and conference papers. And the expertise we have developed has proven to be highly relevant for the Norwegian authorities, in particular for the Ministry of the Environment.”

EU: energy security and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

“The other main objective of our project has been to learn more about EU law in the areas of climate and energy. Doctoral-fellow Catherine Banet has played a leading role in these efforts,” Professor Bugge explains.

The EU has lofty goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, member states are concerned with energy security – that is, becoming less dependent on imported oil, gas and coal. The aim of the sustainable growth targets under the Europe 2020 programme is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 20 per cent and increase the share of renewables in final energy consumption to 20 per cent by the year 2020.”

  “The EU has set a number of measures in motion. The system for trading quotas and an ambitious initiative for increasing the renewable energy segment in EU member states are the most important elements. These measures also affect Norway via the EEA agreement. Norway is required to implement many of the EU regulations on both climate and energy,” Dr Bugge says.

Focus on teaching and publishing

The NORKLIMA-funded project being hosted at the Faculty of Law has a broad reach. A dedicated group within Natural Resources Law, headed by Dr Bugge, has amalgamated UiO’s expertise in the field and has introduced climate issues into the curriculum of several of the law courses. In addition, a separate Master’s course in International climate change and energy law has been established and has become very popular among international applicants.

The climate law group at UiO has established a wide international network and invested time and effort in disseminating information via publications and other channels. Altogether, the project is behind 21 book chapters, 29 periodical articles and close to 70 lectures. The vast majority of publications are issued by international publishers.

“We are very pleased with the results of our work,” says Hans Christian Bugge. “At the same time, we recognise that our fledgling community is small and vulnerable. There is both a great need for, and much to be gained from, greater investment in the subject of climate law in Norway,” he emphasises.

 

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