How to Write a Law Essay for Your Masters Degree (Example)
Here is an example of a first-class degree law essay that was written by a post-graduate student reading LLM at a leading UK university.
Please explain the role of non-state actors in the regulation of the energy sector internationally, giving specific examples.
Regulation is no longer considered as the exclusive domain of the state and governments and the role of non-state actors in regulation is now widely acknowledged. Some non-state sources are new and represent a growth of regulation. But many of the sources of regulation are well established, they have existed for a very long time in one form or another. What is new is the growing recognition of these alternative sources as regulation, their formal co-option by the state and an increasing co-ordination of activities between various regulatory sources.
Non-state actors may provide regulation for climate change, environmental issues, and human rights and may even encompass specific self-regulation of an entire sector. For example, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) is a non-state actor that regulates the US nuclear power industry. The INPO was established as a wholly private organisation funded by energy companies themselves in direct response to the ‘Three Mile Island’ incident. The INPO now develops standards and conducts regular inspections of nuclear power plants.
International energy flows and their governance is not a recent phenomenon. Beginning in the 1960, a group of energy-related international governance institutions were created by the international community. Yet, the growing strategic importance of energy, given its scarcity value, has accelerated this trend and has, at the same time, thrown up unprecedented challenges for conventional understandings of governance.
According to Scholte of Scholt Energy Control BV, the emergence of a globalised polity and economy has been witness to the formation of a number of multilateral inter-governmental arrangements, where “states have chosen collective regulation over a unilateral approach”. Goldthau and Witte of Harvard University maintain that the growing institutional architecture for global energy governance covers key aspects of energy development and transaction including management of short-term supply risks, financing, trading, hedging of ventures, energy investments, and trade arrangements . Energy institutions can go a long way in reducing transaction costs in inter-state interactions and in creating competition and a level-playing field for commercial actors. However, we must ask the question why do international institutions develop and why do states choose to become part of an institution, submitting authority and complete sovereign control? Abbott and Snidal of Arizona University, maintain that two characteristics of institutions, “centralization and independence…create an inclination amongst countries to create institutions or become participating members”.
International institutions facilitate centralisation of activities that require collective action and thus provide for their effective conduct. They allow communication and decision making on concerns that countries share, and emerge as a pivot around which international responses are determined and administered. The International Renewable Energy Agency (“IRENA”), for instance, facilitates exchange of knowledge on renewable energy development, with countries having agreed that they seek to advance renewable energy development and deployment domestically, and through international cooperation establish a sustainable energy supply system. The World Bank which provides technical and financial assistance to developing countries to ameliorate standards of living and meet development objectives, also addresses issues of energy poverty and finances development programmes that target improvement in energy access and availability of clean and safe fuels. As is the case with the World Bank, member states often employ an institution as an agent for pursuing activities perceived to be in the interest of the participating community of states. The centralisation of activities that institutions allow can also serve a defined ‘coalition of interests‘, for example in the case of Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (“OPEC”) and the International Energy Agency (“IEA”).
Similarly, inter-governmental multilateral energy institutions give voice to weaker and vulnerable countries. While it is possible that constitutional and decision-making procedures in international institutions be weighted in favour of powerful developed countries, an institutional structure based on the sovereign equality of states, coupled with appropriate decision-making procedures, may often offset power imbalances in the international system. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”) is a forum where the demand for transfer of clean technologies to developing countries, and support for adaptation and mitigation action, has been highlighted by groups of developing member states. Consensus-based decision-making at the UNFCCC has lent bargaining power to small economies and island nations.
Financial institutions such as commercial banks have a direct role in energy regulation through project financing and the Equator Principles. The Principles serve as a checklist for financial institutions before acting as lenders in project financing. The Principles apply to any new project with a capital cost of US$ 10 million or more and require an Environmental and Social Assessment (ESA) under Principle No.2 to evaluate the environmental impacts and the effects on local communities. The Principles can be classified as a form of “incentive based regulation” This is because, by conforming to the Principles, banks may form alliances with NGOs which would be favourable for business and a win-win situation for both parties.
Through their independence, institutions can act with a degree of autonomy in a defined issue area. Abbott and Snidal argue that once an institution is created and norms and rules are earmarked, while constituent member states can reflect on the mandate of institutions and often powerful states may be able to intervene in their functioning, the participation of an international institution as an independent / autonomous body in any international function, increases efficiency and lends legitimacy to action. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an inter-governmental arrangement that brings together political and technical resources has been accorded the ‘legitimacy‘ to promote the safe and efficient use of nuclear energy across the world, and to ensure the enforcement of safety measures and safeguards in nuclear facilities of member countries. The IAEA is a watchdog for the international community that prevents the proliferation of nuclear weapons and promotes use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Technical bodies such as the IAEA and the UNFCCC also have the wherewithal to bring new issues of relevance to member countries for consultation and action, and undertake independent reviews of countries‘ policies. The Kyoto Protocol includes monitoring and compliance procedures to ensure that countries are complying with their commitments to the UNFCCC.
Non-state Institutions also function as neutral arbiters in cases of conflict amongst parties. They may, according to Abbott and Snidal of Arizona University, “mediate between the parties and facilitate discussion on a mutually agreeable solution, or provide a hearing to all interested parties and issue a binding decision”. Institutions often have the provision for constitution of ad hoc expert panels or provide for a dispute settlement mechanism. The dispute settlement mechanisms under the Energy Charter Treaty, for example, include state arbitration for disputes between parties to the treaty; investor state arbitration for investment-related disputes; a special conciliation mechanism for transit-related disputes; a mechanism for trade disputes (modeled closely along the lines of the WTO and employed when one of the parties to the dispute is not a WTO member); and bilateral and multilateral non-binding mechanisms for consultation for cases related to competition and environmental protection respectively.
In conclusion, following the aforesaid, non-state actors play a vital role in energy regulation. A collection of independent institutions deal with manifold issues facing the energy sector such as financing and environmental aspects which helps to achieve uniformity and standardisation in the energy market that is not country or state specific. This in turn, helps to centralise energy regulation and achieve a degree of efficiency. Nonetheless, compliance with non-state actors remains an issue to be addressed in order to give full-weight to these organisations. Nonetheless, independent, non-state organisations are implementing measures and penalties to ensure compliance by energy companies. More so, the increased recognition of non-state actors, provides a degree of pressure to energy companies to comply.