Previous Exams - International Climate Change and Energy Law (JUR5911)

Spring 2012

Please answer three (3) of the four (4) sets of questions below

  1. Which principles inform the UN climate treaties? How is in particular the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDRRC) reflected in the architecture of these treaties and which challenges does it pose to the current climate negotiations?
  2. Which competences does the Compliance Committee under the Kyoto Protocol have for dealing with an Annex I member state’s non-compliance with its obligations under the Protocol?
  3. The market for biofuels is exploding, and sub-Saharan African countries are interested in becoming biofuel and carbon credit suppliers to world markets. In 2009, the Africa Journal stated that “private and public sector institutions [...] are currently working to streamline the CDM biofuel approval process, which will enable industrialized countries to facilitate biofuel projects in Africa for their benefit.” Increasingly, “Africa will be a frontier for developed nations to diversify their energy supplies and attain carbon ‘neutrality.’” The CDM Executive Board has since approved methodologies for biofuel projects. At present, only roughly 2% of all CDM projects (85 projects) are based in Africa according to UNFCCC statistics (13 April 2012).
    Please discuss critically the CDM, its role in Africa and the approval of biofuel projects under the CDM. Which legal challenges could arise with regard to biofuel projects in the CDM?
  4. The Lamedives are a state comprising of 1200 islands in the South-Indian Ocean. On average, the islands are lying about 1.3 m above sea level. In the last five years, rising sea levels and increasing sea surface temperatures are having an impact on the islands and their surrounding marine ecosystem. Erosion is a big problem on many of the islands and most of their coral reefs are badly bleached. Some islands have become inhabitable causing whole communities to resettle to other islands. The Lamedives rank number 181 on the list of 190 countries’ Gross Domestic Product - GDP (nr. 1 having the highest GDP). The Government of the Lamedives is contemplating a claim to seek compensation for the occurred damages to its territory.
  • As a first step, compensation shall be claimed from Dancana. Dancana is an industrialized state and one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG), responsible for about 10% of global annual emissions. Dancana has a thriving oil and gas sector. In the recent years, Darcana has developed its large tar sand reservoirs for oil production, causing its GHG emissions to increase by 30% since 1990.
  • Both, the Lamedives and Dancana are Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. Dancana is an Annex I Party with an emission limitation and reduction commitment of 6 % (base year 1990). The Lamedives are not listed in Annex I or II of the UNFCCC.

You are a legal advisor to the Government of the Lamedives and are asked to assess the feasibility of such claim. Please analyze the requirements for this claim and provide arguments for and against the success of a compensation claim. (For the purpose of this case, we assume that there is an international court with the jurisdiction to hear this case.)

Spring 2011

Please answer question 1 and only ONE alternative (a or b) of question 2.

  1. The former UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer, stated “The CDM has been the focus of intense scrutiny, and rightly so, by those who wish to ensure the mechanism’s environmental integrity and contribution to sustainable development, as well by those who want to ensure cost effectiveness. The conclusion that we can draw, looking back from this milestone, is that the CDM is delivering what it was meant to deliver—emission reductions and development. What’s more, it has shown that it can evolve, adapt and improve”. (Press Release, UNFCCC Secretariat, Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism passes 100 millionth certified emission reduction milestone, Dec. 18, 2007).

Explain the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as defined in the Kyoto Protocol, critically discuss the statement above and identify legal challenges.


Alternative a:

Country Ethanolia has implemented a climate friendly renewable energy policy. In Article 3 of its Climate and Renewable Energy Act (CREA), Country Ethanolia has committed itself to “ensure that the share of energy from renewable sources in all forms of transport is at least 10% of the final consumption of energy in transport.”

In the transport sector, the only available renewable energy source is biofuel produced from biomass.  Providers of conventional fuel that contains at least 10 percent biofuel will receive financial support in form of tax reliefs. The production capacity in Ethanolia for biomass is very limited. For that reason, Ethanolia imports biofuels from other countries. However, there is a concern that production of biofuels in certain countries might not respect minimum environmental requirements. Out of the fear that biomass production will lead to the deforestation of tropical forests, country Ethanolia has included sustainability criteria in its CREA. Article 4 of CREA reads “Biofuels taken into account for the purpose of compliance with the renewable energy target set out in article 3 of this Act shall not be made from biomass obtained from land with high biodiversity value, including primary forests or other forests of native species, nature protection reserves and areas designated for the protection of rare or endangered species.”

In the tropical and forested country Plantania, large areas of primary forests are converted into palm plantations for the production of palm oil biodiesel – a biofuel. Plantania exports its biofuels to several countries, including Ethanolia. When Ethanolia became aware of the production methods for biofuels in Plantania, it urged Plantania to adopt sustainable production methods. In the meantime, biofuel imports from Plantania were not eligible for financial support in Ethanolia. When it became clear that Plantania will not change its production methods, Ethanolia banned the import of biofuels from Plantania.

You are a legal consultant hired by the Government of Ethanolia. You are asked to analyse the compatibility of Ethanolias measures with WTO law.

Alternative b:

Climate change mitigation and renewable energy regulation and policies intersect with international trade law in a number of ways. Explain how international law of the World Trade Organization (WTO) could interfere with a country’s domestic climate or renewable energy regulation? Which legal solutions exist?

Published June 29, 2011 10:42 AM - Last modified June 8, 2012 11:16 AM