Complexity in Global Energy-Environment Governance

60 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2014 Last revised: 7 Apr 2014

Date Written: February 22, 2014


Since the early 1990s, the global effort to mitigate climate change has been framed primarily as an environmental law problem aimed at harm prevention. As the shortcomings of this approach have become increasingly clear, a number of scholars have begun to examine energy policy reform as a potential pathway to more fruitful climate change governance development. This article also identifies energy policy as an appropriate space for developing more effective climate change mitigation policy, but does so in a novel way. Rather than focus on the substance of environmental or energy law, this article suggests that we should reconceive of climate change as an emergent property of the global energy system. This perspective holds promise, the article suggests, because it can direct reform efforts toward those components of the energy system that are most likely to promote complex systems forces that will produce a large-scale transformation of the system as a whole. Given the urgency of climate change threats and the near-total failure of prior environmental law approaches to address them, the proposed re-conception of the problem offers a meaningful way forward and perhaps the last real hope for policy efforts to produce results that accord with widely accepted climate mitigation goals.

Keywords: climate change, energy, complex systems

JEL Classification: K32, K33, K39, Q40

Suggested Citation

Long, Andrew, Complexity in Global Energy-Environment Governance (February 22, 2014). Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, 2014 Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Andrew Long (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

Portland, OR
United States
503-479-8654 (Phone)

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