Though the international law on the energy sector is substantially intertwined with international law on the environment, the energy sector is a critical sector of the law in and of its own. Pursuant to Principle 21 of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, states are accorded “the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.” This Principle is the theoretical basis for the development of international law related to the energy sector, specifically, securing the right of the state over its natural resources, along with its right to explore and exploit its resources in its allotted territory, land or otherwise.
It would do well to recognize that the international law framework related to energy (oil and gas in particular) remains on the political and economic forefront on a daily basis, regulating prices and domestic markets. This regime oversees exploration, investment, environmental standards, supply from politically volatile areas in the world, along with multilateral agreements incorporating binding energy law provisions that directly affect the global economy. For illustrative purposes, the law related to oil and gas, central to international energy law, encompasses: the licensing regimes between states and domestic or international oil companies; service contracts between states and oil exploration or production companies; the registration of offshore energy installations; the use of ships and oil rigs; pollution on land in water; civil liability for harm to the environment; the relationship between states on all of these matters and decommissioning of energy installations.