Bergen Energy Lab (BEL)

International Energy Law in Perspective

The relationship between national and international energy law

Foto Jan Arne Wold
Jan Arne Wold

Main content

International and national energy law has emerged as an essential legal discipline during the last fifty years and has undergone a remarkable expansion and transition, which is still ongoing. International energy law is a part of the rapid expansion of international law that has taken place since 1970 and created new areas of international law as environmental law, international trade law, human rights law, the law of the seas and international energy law. The new areas of international law represent a form of multi-level governance by adopting standards for national legislation and a framework for international trade and trans-border cooperation related to energy and energy services. The traditional theories of dualism and monism are ill-suited to handle the complicated relationship and interplay between international and national energy law in the more and more international and globalized energy market.

International energy law is not based on one major international treaty, but are based on a  fragmented regulation of many issues, based on treaties as well as international practice by states and companies and also different "soft law" instruments. International energy law will encompass the sovereignty of energy resources onshore and offshore. "Shared energy resources" in the form of transboundary petroleum resources and watercourses is a particular problem. Transboundary infrastructure for transport of energy also raises sovereignty issues and private international law issues. Different aspects of international energy activity are regulated by various legal instruments like international environmental law and climate law and international multilateral or bilateral investment treaties. "Climate justice" is a relatively new concept relating to the impact of energy projects on local communities and indigenous people.

International energy law influences the content of national law by laying down rules that must be reflected in domestic law, and also by establishing legal instruments and models for regulation that it de facto is difficult for states to deviate from in a globalized world.


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