Third Annual Event (19 March 2021, King’s College London)

Governing the Energy Transition: Local Action, International Ambition

Knowledge Exchange Workshop

Convenor: Dr Leslie-Anne Duvic-Paoli
Workshop supported by King’s College London’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account


The invite-only workshop aims to identify how international legal regimes frame and influence regional, national and local energy transitions. Held virtually, the event provided a forum to facilitate knowledge exchange between academics, legal practitioners and policy-makers in order to make sense of on-going legal changes, permit the flow of new ideas and integrate academic expertise into current policy thinking. Context: Radically new energy policies are needed to decarbonize our economies to mitigate climate change in line with the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement. The energy sector is crucial in this endeavour, energy production and consumption accounting for two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. While energy governance has traditionally been a technocratic field, recent international developments, such as the adoption of a stand-alone sustainable development goal on energy and the design of nationally determined contributions anticipating significant changes in the energy sector to implement the Paris Agreement have opened domestic energy policies to increased external scrutiny. Global stakeholders, including international and regional organisations as well as civil society, are paying significant attention to how national energy policies are designed. In this context, international legal instruments can either facilitate or challenge the adoption of climate-friendly policies. For instance, Sustainable Development Goal 7 is generally considered to offer a road map for a global transition to renewable energies while investment treaties have been widely criticised for being inadequate in a context of climate emergency and for failing to support the move to decarbonised energy systems. Held at a time of significant legal change, the workshop provided a forum to address the impacts of international energy regimes on regional, national and local transitions. Guiding questions: The workshop sought to facilitate knowledge exchange in relation to two sets of questions:
  • Lessons learnt: How have international energy initiatives influenced, positively or negatively, the governance of the energy transition at national and local levels so far? Under which conditions can international energy initiatives improve the governance of the energy transition at national and local levels? To which extent have local specificities been accounted for? Is it possible to identify best practices?
  • Preparing for change: What are the risks and opportunities of multi-level governance? In a context in which climate action is becoming more localised and international law more deformalised, is international energy law still relevant? Conversely, what roles do local actors play in the making and implementation of international energy law? What are the consequences of multi-level governance for transparency, democratisation and accountability? How can the legitimacy of multi-level actions be best ensured?
Format: The workshop was designed specifically to foster knowledge exchange between academia and policymakers. Each academic speaker was matched with a legal practitioner or policy-maker and the pair presented together.
Slides: Anna-Alexandra Marhold and Oleksandr Antonenko, ‘Striking the Right Balance between Energy Security and Sustainability: the Regulatory Frameworks of the ECT and WTO’