Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Climate Law, Transnational Law


Climate change leaves little on this planet untouched. The concept of transnational law is no exception. Transnational law has long functioned as a mechanism for illuminating particular legal subjects, processes, and spaces: the empty space left by existing doctrinal perspectives, the relationships between, around and outside of national laws, the importance for law of private actors and the power and powerlessness of those actors. It offers a way of opening our eyes to spheres of normativity other than the nation state and distinct ways of conceiving of the nation state itself. But climate change shatters the idea that jurisdictional borders and doctrinal debates about the scope of the ‘legal’ are the sole tensions with which a concept of transnational law must contend. Climate change exposes a further fault line underlying legal thought and practice – the problematic, but deep-rooted practice of separating ‘Human’ from ‘Nature.’ This separation, and its accompanying assumption that the natural environment is a limitless resource for human exploitation, is powerfully challenged by the reality of a dramatically changing planet, and the rise of Anthropocene literatures that bring planetary limits sharply into view.