The interaction between trade and climate change law and policy : from potential conflict to mutual supportiveness
Trade and climate change intersect in many ways. Aside from the broad debate as to whether economic growth and trade adversely affect the environment, linkages are recognized between existing rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and rules established in various multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). Controlling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions promises to be a top priority on both national and international agendas, and special attention has been given to the relationship between the WTO and the emerging international regime on climate change. The unilateral use of carbon-related import restrictions risks triggering retaliation by trading partners. It also raises questions about whether such trade measures are consistent with countries’ obligations under the WTO. The WTO status of measures imposed not on products directly but on the methods by which they were produced, which is the case in carbon-related trade restrictions, is not clear. Whether such violations can be excused by exceptions for measures taken with the purpose to protect human life or health, or the environment, is an open question. There is also the question of whether solutions to the problem of the WTO’s inconsistency with regard to trade-related measures in climate change policy can be found. This paper explores the relationship between trade and climate change regimes, the potential areas of conflict, and what can be done to promote mutual gains. Apart from exploring the key issues and examining the conceptual underpinning of the two regimes, revealing important symmetries as well as some divergence, the paper is aimed at finding a more universal and long lasting solution to the WTO’s inconsistency of carbon-related to GHG emissions, both within and outside the WTO.