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Domestic climate policies and the WTO

  • Zhang, ZhongXiang
  • Assunção, Lucas

Experience with existing multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) shows that trade measures agreed to within the MEAs themselves may not necessarily lead to a dispute between parties. On the contrary, there is a great chance that disputes may arise from national measures undertaken to fulfil those obligations under the MEAs. This possibility of conflict with their WTO obligations may well arise in implementing the Kyoto Protocol, given that Article 2 of the Protocol gives Annex 1 countries considerable flexibility in the choice of domestic policies to meet their greenhouse gas emissions commitments. It is highly likely that Annex 1 governments with differentiated legal and political systems might pursue their domestic policies in such a way as to unfairly favour domestic producers over foreign ones. Such differential treatments could occur in governing eligibility for, and the amount of, the subsidy, in establishing energy efficiency standards, in the determinations of the category of eco-labelled products and the procedures of establishing eco-labels, in the specifications in tenders, and in specifying condition for participating in government procurement bids. In case where a country unilaterally imposes a carbon tax, it may adjust taxes at the border to mitigate competitiveness effects of cheaper imports not subject to a similar level of the carbon tax in the country of origin. Measure of this sort may well raise complex questions with respect to the WTO consistency and the conditions under which border taxes can be adjusted to accommodate a loss of international competitiveness. All this clearly indicates the necessity of addressing policy coordination between the trade and climate regimes. Against this background, this paper discusses carbon/energy taxes, subsidies, energy efficiency standards, eco-labels and government procurement policies, and explores the potential interaction between these domestic climate polices and WTO rules. It highlights their potential conflicts, and argues that such conflicts can be avoided or at least minimized if WTO rules are carefully scrutinised at the time Annex 1 governments undertake measures to achieve the required reductions in emissions. The paper suggests an early process of pursuing consultations between WTO members and the Parties to the Climate Change Convention and points to the need of further exploring ways to enhance synergies between the trade and climate regimes.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 13223.

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Date of creation: Jan 2002
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:13223
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  1. Michael Hoel, 1992. "International environment conventions: The case of uniform reductions of emissions," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 2(2), pages 141-159, March.
  2. James Poterba & Julio Rotemberg, 1995. "Environmental taxes on intermediate and final goods when both can be imported," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 221-228, August.
  3. Zhang, ZhongXiang, 2000. "An assessment of the EU proposal for ceilings on the use of Kyoto flexibility mechanisms," MPRA Paper 13151, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Barker, Terry & Baylis, Susan & Madsen, Peter, 1993. "A UK carbon/energy tax : The macroeconomics effects," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 296-308, March.
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  8. Peter Hoeller & Jonathan Coppel, 1992. "Energy Taxation and Price Distortions in Fossil Fuel Markets: Some Implications for Climate Change Policy," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 110, OECD Publishing.
  9. Adam B. Jaffe et al., 1995. "Environmental Regulation and the Competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturing: What Does the Evidence Tell Us?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 132-163, March.
  10. Zhang, ZhongXiang, 1998. "Greenhouse gas emissions trading and the world trading system," MPRA Paper 12971, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. Bohringer, Christoph & Rutherford, Thomas F., 1997. "Carbon Taxes with Exemptions in an Open Economy: A General Equilibrium Analysis of the German Tax Initiative," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 189-203, February.
  12. Jackson, J.H., 1992. "World Trade Rules and Environmental Policies: Congruence or Conflict?," Working Papers 317, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  13. Manne, Alan S. & Richels, Richard G., 1993. "The EC proposal for combining carbon and energy taxes The implications for future CO2 emissions," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 5-12, January.
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