Climate Change and International Trade

R. Leal-Arcas, CLIMATE CHANGE AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, 2013

31 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2013 Last revised: 19 Feb 2013

See all articles by Rafael Leal-Arcas

Rafael Leal-Arcas

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law

Date Written: February 13, 2013


This book is unique in that it uses trade as a tool to move the climate agenda forward, by presenting the following two new approaches to climate change mitigation: 1) a bottom-up approach to climate change and 2) using regional trade agreements (RTAs) to promote climate change mitigation.

The book proposes a bottom-up approach to climate change negotiations by using the evolution of multilateral trade agreements as a model for reaching a global climate treaty. Given the difficulties of reaching a global climate change agreement, the book argues that a more effective (and presumably fairer) way to tackle climate change today is by bringing together the major greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters, irrespective of their GDP. The Kyoto Protocol’s stipulation that only Annex I countries reduce their GHG emissions does not reflect today’s or tomorrow’s climate change reality. Major developing countries that are major GHG emitters should also be asked to reduce their GHG emissions, if the aim is to solve the climate issue. This is an example of the bottom-up approach proposed in this book. Why? Seen prospectively, climate change is a developing-countries problem, since they have already surpassed the industrialized world in total GHG emissions, and will account for more than 75 per cent of emissions growth in the next 25 years.

Moreover, the book explores potential lessons which can be drawn from bottom-up diplomacy in international trade, using critical mass agreements. In doing so, it draws lessons from the international trading system and explores the possibilities of applying the GATT/WTO model to a post-Kyoto climate deal.

The book also presents the innovative approach of creating RTAs with strong climate change chapters, thus embedding climate goals within bilateral/trilateral/plurilateral trade agreements, given their proliferation — especially bilateral — in the international trading system. Involving major GHG emitters through RTAs and economic partnership agreements, with climate chapters attached, can be an effective avenue towards reducing GHG emissions, and could therefore facilitate the ultimate goal of creating an effective global climate regime. This is something governments should explore. Current and future RTAs could be used as discussion platforms of climate-related trade issues. Such RTAs could be broad in scope so as to cover, for instance, investment and environmental technology transfer.

In addition, the book explores new climate-related issues and their implications for international trade law: geoengineering and climate migration — two heretofore unexplored territories. Furthermore, the book analyzes the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and the potential expansion of the EU ETS to the shipping industry.

Keywords: climate change mitigation, international trade, multilayered governance, climate migration, trade and environment, EU emissions trading scheme, Kyoto Protocol, UNFCCC, Bali Action Plan, Copenhagen Accord, Durban Platform, Cancun Agreements, CDM, Montreal Protocol, RTAs and climate change

JEL Classification: F1, H41, K32, K33, O13, O15, O16, O19, O3, Q2, Q4

Suggested Citation

Leal-Arcas, Rafael, Climate Change and International Trade (February 13, 2013). R. Leal-Arcas, CLIMATE CHANGE AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, 2013, Available at SSRN:

Rafael Leal-Arcas (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law ( email )

Lincoln's Inn Fields
Holborn, London WC2A 3JB
United Kingdom


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