Sai MA, PhD Student in Law (China)

Sai Ma first studied Law at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong, China. From 2013 to 2016, she extended her studies in Europe by two further subjects: Economics and Environmental Policy. Currently, Sai tries to combine these areas in her research as she aims at analysing the role and competence of international investment arbitration in enforcing the clean energy policies.


Research focus: law, international investment arbitration, energy transition and climate change

Shifting the energy sector from fossil fuel-based to carbon-free is pressingly needed to combat climate change. A precondition for making this clean energy transition successful is to sustain sufficient investment in renewable energy. However, due to regulatory changes or states’ omissions, disputes between foreign investors and states are inevitable. Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), as an enforcement mechanism under the investment law regime, enables foreign investors to settle these disputes through arbitration proceedings with the states in which they have invested. It provides foreign investors with the chance to bypass national jurisdiction and to bring disputes to international tribunals.  As investment disputes with environmental components take a large portion of the ISDS caseload, the influence of ISDS on environmental regulations and policymaking arises wide concern.

Sai’s research aims to review the environment-investment interaction in the context of the current energy transition through the lens of ISDS. She intends to study the constraints regarding the role and competence of ISDS in enforcing energy policies. Her research project contains an overview of the nexus between the climate goals, the clean energy transition, and the investment law regime. Further, a case study approach will be used in the research project to examine the energy transition related ISDS disputes. These disputes could epitomize the general challenges arising from the interplay between the investment and the environmental sphere in the ISDS system. Sai believes that the Green Talents Award would enable her to exchange ideas with expertise and provide her with different perspectives on the clean energy transition. She trusts that the Green Talents are an influential interdisciplinary community that will serve as a gateway for her to undertake creative research projects and expand the influence of her work.

The jury appreciated Sai’s transdisciplinary expertise and her ability to relate several important issues to each other. As she is addressing a research gap in a determined and deeply sophisticated way, the jury was convinced that Sai’s study will make a significant contribution to the implementation of sustainable policies from a legal perspective.