Meet our academic: Dr Thomas Muinzer

Dr Thomas Muinzer joined CEPMLP in December 2018.  Now that he's had a few months to settle in, we thought we would interview him to see how he was enjoying his role and also to find out a little more about him...

Please introduce yourself and tell us something that isn’t on your staff profile page

My name is Dr Thomas L Muinzer, and I’m a Lecturer in Energy Law at the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (“CEPMLP”). I’m an avid fan of good writing, and when I’m not working on law-related matters, Oscar Wilde and a few other favourite authors are often occupying my spare time.

How long have you been in Dundee and what do you teach?

I joined the faculty at CEPMLP shortly before Christmas 2018, in December. I teach energy law and policy, with an emphasis on renewables, sustainability and decarbonisation.

Why did you decide to come to Dundee? 

Dundee is an increasingly vibrant city (the Victoria & Albert has opened recently, etc. etc.), and the University of Dundee is renowned as a great teaching and research institution -  and most importantly for someone like me (an “energy” person), CEPMLP is one of the world’s leading energy centres. I had attended many events at the centre in the past, was familiar with much of the influential work produced by the research staff, and had even spoken at the Centre’s annual Energy Forum conference once. So an opportunity to join the CEPMLP team seemed too good to miss.

What are your research interests? 

Primarily, my interests concern climate and energy law and policy, with a strong focus on the decarbonisation of the energy sector, and on renewable energy law and policy in particular.  I am especially interested in international relations and issues in this context, i.e., not merely our UK domestic setting, but the important broader global context in which these sorts of issues play out.

Who or what inspired your interest in energy law? 

Problems and dangers posed by anthropogenic climate change amount to one of the great challenges of our age. Gradual decarbonisation of the energy sector is essential in tackling this problem in the interest of safeguarding our planet for present and future generations.  These concerns are what most particularly drove me to fix on energy law in my work in the first place. They are still the headline concerns that help to get me out of bed in the morning, even now.

What would you say has been your greatest achievement in research so far? 

For various technical legal reasons, and while the framework is imperfect and can of course be improved, I have come to believe that the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008 is one of the most important items of legislation passed by any national Parliament in the world in modern times. I have made some initial contributions towards a greater understanding of this complicated regime in several research papers, and taken cumulatively this work is probably my most important scholarly contribution to knowledge to date:

“Is the Climate Change Act 2008 a Constitutional Statute?”European Public Law

“Subnational Governance for the Low Carbon Energy Transition: Mapping the UK’s ‘Energy Constitution"Environment and Planning

“Does the Climate Change Act 2008 Adequately Account for the UK’s Devolved Jurisdictions?”European Energy and Environmental Law Review

Asides from my regular energy work, in my spare time I have used some of my energy to help lead a campaign calling for the respectful treatment of a onetime famous Irish celebrity and showman named Charles Byrne (the “wonderful Irish Giant”).  He suffered from gigantism, so that he grew to a great height, and his remains were stolen on the way to his funeral and are currently on display in the memorial museum to the person who stole them.  This case, and Charles’ story in general, is dear to my heart, and so the scholarly academic work I have produced over the course of my involvement with this matter, and the friendships and collaborations that have emerged from it, are particularly important to me on a personal as well as an intellectual level.

Charles’ wiki biography is here

My main academic research outputs are these:

“A Grave Situation: An Examination of the Legal Issues Raised by the Life and Death of Charles Byrne, the ‘Irish Giant'" - International Journal of Cultural Property

“Should the Skeleton of ‘The Irish Giant’ be Buried at Sea?”British Medical Journal

You recently completed a book – tell us more about it. Where can we get it?

 My recent book, Climate and Energy Governance for the UK Low Carbon Transition: The Climate Change Act 2008, is the first book on the first Climate Change Act, i.e., the first Act whereby a national Parliament placed blanket legally binding long-term emission reduction targets on itself in law in order to tackle climate change.  The book was recently published by Palgrave.  Available from good bookstores everywhere!

I had the pleasure of launching this with friends and colleagues at CEPMLP shortly after I joined the faculty as a Lecturer in Energy Law:

What is the best part about being in Dundee?

I enjoy the team spirit at CEPMLP, the lively student culture, and my colleagues and friendships within the centre. I also draw inspiration from the general research environment there, where important work in the sphere of energy is ongoing on a daily basis all around me, literally all the time. For me, the leading-edge work that the Centre is now engaged in in the context of decarbonisation and sustainability is particularly exciting to be a part of.