International Legal Boost for Renewable Energy

A new initiative to accelerate the uptake of renewables has been unveiled at a meeting of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP).

Washington D.C. – October 3, 2003 [] The Renewable Energy and International Law Project (REILP) will assess both the obstacles to renewables’ development and opportunities for their growth in current international law. The project’s preliminary findings will be presented at the International Conference for Renewable Energies in Bonn next June. “International law has yet to catch up with the rapid development of the renewables market”, said Martijn Wilder, of Baker & McKenzie’s specialized Global Clean Energy & Climate Change Group, which will jointly coordinate the project with Leslie Parker, the Project’s Managing Director. “Most of the international legal instruments drafted over past decades to address global issues – such as free trade, biodiversity, the environment and the seas – were formulated while new renewable energy was in its infancy,” Wilder said. “They may now pose inadvertent and unintended obstacles to its development. Our project is intended to help identify and remove such obstacles as may exist and to see how international law can be used to promote renewable energy at a global level.” Wilder and Parker will co-ordinate input from an large range of REEEP partners, associates and contributors, including Yale’s Center for Environmental Law & Policy, UNEP, the European Commission and NAFTA’s Commission on Environmental Cooperation. “This is very important work,” said Bill Rammell, environmental policy minister at the British Foreign Office, which is currently hosting REEEP. “Proven technologies which increase sustainable development and reduce climate change need a sound foundation in international law if they are to flourish on a global scale.” The Project seeks to understand, reconcile and balance differing valid objectives within international law. “When many significant international treaties were drafted and ratified, the practical realities of renewable energy may have been far from negotiators’ minds,” says project director Leslie Parker. For example, Parker cites the impact of potential conflicts among different international law regimes’ definition of waste on the growth of the biomass sector. If wood – a prime source of biomass – is defined as waste, then the use of wood by-products in biomass generators could be restricted. While the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste expressly exempts wood from its coverage, evolving European case law may be at odds with this result. The REIL project originated from the IEA’s Renewable Energy Unit in spring 2002, and a preliminary scoping document was presented in October 2002. Wilder explains that after the first stage, where the project will survey international law to search for such hidden barriers, it will go on to consider how these barriers can be best managed or removed. And, critically, he points out, the project will work with industry and government directly to ascertain what aspects of international law are having an impact on the renewables market “on the ground.” “I expect the project to evolve and grow,” said Wilder. “Renewable energy needs to be placed higher on the trade agenda at the regional and global levels. This is hopefully a step in that ongoing process.”
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