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Carbon Tariffs and the WTO: An Evaluation of Feasible Policies


  • Paul-Erik Veel


Both the European Union, which currently has an emissions trading scheme for greenhouse gases, and the USA, which is considering implementing such a program, are exploring the possibility of including foreign producers in that program by requiring importers of foreign goods to pay charges relating to the amount of CO 2 emitted in the production of those goods. This article examines the legality of such measures under WTO law. While academic literature has in recent years considered carbon tariffs in the abstract, this article contextualizes that discussion by analyzing European and American proposals to enact carbon tariffs, focusing primarily on the 2008 Lieberman-Warner Bill. This article concludes that carbon tariffs are, subject to a number of constraints, generally permissible under WTO law. However, it also argues that while carbon tariffs may generally be legally permissible, additional domestic political constraints may significantly limit the set of legal carbon tariffs which are practically feasible in any given state. This article posits that any meaningful discourse on carbon tariffs must incorporate both political and legal constraints, and it seeks to contribute to this discourse by identifying the relevant constraints and exploring certain policy options which could satisfy those constraints. , Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul-Erik Veel, 2009. "Carbon Tariffs and the WTO: An Evaluation of Feasible Policies," Journal of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(3), pages 749-800, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jieclw:v:12:y:2009:i:3:p:749-800

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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel Becker & Magdalena Brzeskot & Wolfgang Peters & Ulrike Will, 2013. "Grenzausgleichsinstrumente bei unilateralen Klimaschutzmaßnahmen. Eine ökonomische und WTO-rechtliche Analyse," ZfU - Zeitschrift für Umweltpolitik und Umweltrecht, RECAP15, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), vol. 36(3), pages 339-373, September.
    2. Tania Sharmin Jahan, 2013. "Is There a Linkage Between Sustainable Development and Market Access of LDCs?," The Law and Development Review, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1), pages 143-223, July.
    3. Stine Aakre, 2016. "The political feasibility of potent enforcement in a post-Kyoto climate agreement," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 145-159, February.
    4. repec:euv:dpaper:9999 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Steffen, Nico, 2016. "Optimal Tariffs and Firm Technology Choice: An Environmental Approach," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145861, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    6. Grebel, Thomas & Stützer, Michael, 2014. "Assessment of the environmental performance of European countries over time: Addressing the role of carbon leakage and nuclear waste," Ilmenau Economics Discussion Papers 90, Ilmenau University of Technology, Institute of Economics.
    7. Wang, Mingzheng & Liu, Junling & Chan, Hau-Ling & Choi, Tsan-Ming & Yue, Xiaohang, 2016. "Effects of carbon tariffs trading policy on duopoly market entry decisions and price competition: Insights from textile firms of developing countries," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 181(PB), pages 470-484.

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