Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Dickson Poon School of Law Departments


The Paris Agreement 2015 re-affirmed the centrality of the state in the global response to climate change. While global cooperation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been bolstered by the Paris Agreement, responsibility for climate change mitigation and adaptation remains vested with the individual state. Nevertheless, and in part due to significant inaction at the international and domestic level prior to the conclusion of the Paris Agreement, a complex system of climate change governance has evolved. The use of hard and soft law, networks of actors, and the emergence of new methods of governance wholly outside of the state, has provided momentum on climate change when little was forthcoming. Despite the emergence of climate change governance there are serious questions regarding its appropriateness for the problem at hand and its ability to promote behavioural changes by mobilising pressure on actors unwilling to act voluntarily.
My thesis aims to investigate the legal and regulatory approaches taken by states within the overall governance system to examine its appropriateness for climate change mitigation in line with the Paris Agreement's target to keep global temperature increases "well-below 2 degrees Celsius". While the governance of climate change provides an innovative and potentially holistic approach to mitigation involving a large variety of different actors, nonetheless, the problem requires large greenhouse gas emissions reductions to occur over a relatively short period of time across the globe. Therefore, law and regulation are vital components of the climate governance system yet are undermined by countervailing issues of import to states of a social, political and economic nature. Corporations are responsible both directly and indirectly for a large volume of global emissions; to limit global temperature increases corporate emissions must be reduced. However, this is complicated by the cross-border activity of many greenhouse gas intensive emitters, the ambiguity regarding responsibility for the emissions of their supply chains, the political and economic ramifications for the state, and the political and economic power wielded by the sector or individual corporation.
My thesis will investigate the UK's legal and regulatory approaches to greenhouse gas emissions relating to corporations in the energy sector. This will involve an investigation of direct regulatory intervention to promote mitigation and indirect interventions though the amendment of existing corporate legislation and the use of litigation. The UK is an interesting site of study for several reasons. As a current member of the EU and as such subject to its climate change mitigation and adaptation approaches, it will provide an opportunity to investigate EU law and policy in this area. Due to Brexit, the study will also provide a unique opportunity to investigate an approach to climate change mitigation in the context of overriding political preoccupation and economic uncertainty. This focus on the UK will be supplemented by comparative studies with approaches from other jurisdictions allowing an investigation into the difficulties and opportunities facing corporations when acting across borders.
Empirical research will supplement the case studies, using both Governmental and corporate statements on climate change mitigation policy and greenhouse gas emissions, and the strategic and sustainability reports of corporations in the energy sectors of the UK to identify the effect of regulatory approaches and evaluate how legislation and regulation works in practice.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2088199 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 30/03/2021 Emily Webster