Is a Green Paradox Spectre Haunting International Climate Change Laws and Conventions?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Could the UNFCCC, and green laws in general, increase greenhouse gas emissions and thus worsen the threats and risks of climate change? That is the question posed by the recognition of green paradoxes; that potential green laws might backfire under certain circumstances.

This paper finds that when certain economic models are relied upon in green paradox research, there are underlying mechanisms that prevent law and policy makers from obtaining clear guidance. As such, increased efforts should be made to promote alternative and more diverse models of green policy impacts on exhaustible resources to better provide the necessary clarity for legislators.

Additional information:

The origins of this concern lay with climate change economists. Their models of the impact from legislative measures drawn to counteract the industrial actions that lead to climate change revealed that under certain conditions, indeed, climate change laws could worsen climate change. One theorist, Hans-Werner Sinn, even suggested that such results might be inevitable. But is it really so? Must legal researchers and climate change activists fear that their legal policy efforts will lead to worsening climate conditions? Is there truly no way to avert this green paradox crisis?

Surely, if there is are mechanisms within climate change laws and conventions that give rise to green paradox results, then legal researchers, legislators and climate change policymakers should take caution and consider revamping the existing framework of international climate change conventions and associated domestic enactments. On the other hand, if the models are unreliable, then caution should be taken to unravel the decades of negotiations that have enabled the existing frameworks. Thus, the analysis of green paradox models on legal research is of prime importance.

However, as Sinn and other have demonstrated, in certain circumstances it would appear that such legal policies could backfire and thus increase greenhouse gas emissions. Given the importance to prevent anthropogenic climate change, it thus becomes critical for legislators and policy makers to understand if these green paradox concerns are substantial.

This study attempts to reduce and placate some of those concerns. It attempts to review a large body of theoretical green paradox models to reveal that certain underlying modeling assumptions substantially and materially limit their applicability to the research of green paradox phenomena. As such, most of the existing models that find the existence of green paradox events are revealed to be unreliable for legal researchers and policymakers.

This paper finds that when certain economic models are relied upon in green paradox research, there are underlying mechanisms that prevent law and policy makers from obtaining clear guidance. As such, increased efforts should be made to promote alternative and more diverse models of green policy impacts on exhaustible resources to better provide the necessary clarity for legislators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-134
Number of pages75
JournalUCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy
Volume33
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015

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climate change
greenhouse gas
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United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
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climate conditions
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Cite this

Is a Green Paradox Spectre Haunting International Climate Change Laws and Conventions? / Partain, Roy Andrew.

In: UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, Vol. 33, No. 1, 01.07.2015, p. 61-134.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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