Global Challenges at the Intersection of Trade, Energy and the Environment

Posted: 24 Feb 2011

See all articles by Joost Pauwelyn

Joost Pauwelyn

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID); Georgetown University Law Centre

Date Written: 2010


How can we increase economic well-being and expand trade, while promoting the optimal use of the world’s energy resources and protecting and preserving our shared environment? The challenge is daunting and complex. This volume of presentations and discussions from a conference on the intersection of trade, energy and the environment addresses the international or cross-border problems that arise at this intersection, the current international regulatory framework and how this framework could be improved.

Institutionally, as WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy phrased it, the "core question" is "whether we need a new, more comprehensive global governance in energy" and if so, "what the form and content of such governance should be and in what institutional setting" and "what would be the WTO role in this new energy governance?"

With climate change imperatives imposing different costs on carbon emissions in different countries, and trade in energy-intensive products representing a substantial part of global trade flows, trade is destined to become the "interface" between potentially otherwise disconnected national climate change regimes.

One of the conference’s conclusions was that the current WTO rule book offers a surprisingly large array of solutions to relatively novel energy and environment problems such as energy transit questions, import restrictions on renewable energy or subsidy disciplines applied to both fossil fuels and alternative energy. Even if these rules were not written with energy in mind, they can be applied in this new light. The big question in this respect is whether such "evolutionary interpretation" can be left in the hands of the WTO dispute settlement system (and, in particular, its seven member Appellate Body), or if it would be better handled through a political renegotiation of the agreements or explicit new rules on energy (as occurred in the EC).

Keywords: International Trade Law, Energy, Environment

Suggested Citation

Pauwelyn, Joost, Global Challenges at the Intersection of Trade, Energy and the Environment (2010). Available at SSRN:

Joost Pauwelyn (Contact Author)

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) ( email )

PO Box 136
Geneva, Geneva CH-1211


Georgetown University Law Centre ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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