UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol, and the WTO - Brewing Conflicts or Are They Mutually Supportive?

By Halvorssen, Anita M. | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Summer-Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol, and the WTO - Brewing Conflicts or Are They Mutually Supportive?


Halvorssen, Anita M., Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


I. INTRODUCTION

On December 10, 2008 Al Gore together with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2) received the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee stated that it awarded the prize to promote peace and security:

   Indications of changes in the earth's future climate must be
   treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary
   principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may
   alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They
   may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition
   for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly
   heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may
   be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and
   between states. (3)

In its fourth report published in February of 2007, the IPCC confirmed that greenhouse gases (GHGs) from human activities have "very likely" (90% probability) caused the increase in temperatures since 1750. (4) The IPCC's synthesis report shows that the level of GHGs has already reached critical levels. (5) The likely impacts of climate change include more frequent severe storms and droughts, sea level rise, ice cap and glacier melt, large-scale species extinctions, spread of disease carriers (of malaria, etc.) to more northernly latitudes, and 200 million environmental "refugees" by 2050. (6)

Lack of natural resources, violent conflicts, and wars, together with other effects of climate change will have major effects on the global economy. (7) As one scholar described the situation, "[e]ven a 3[degrees]C rise in global average temperature would devastate the global environment, place human survival in grave danger, and risk the collapse of the world economy." (8) The global response to climate change taken in the next 10-20 years could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, on par with those associated with World War I (WWI), World War II (WWII) and the Great Depression. (9) Nicholas Stern projected that if action is not taken now, it may cost 5-20% of global GDP each year from now to address climate change. (10) In his report, Stern states: "climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent global response." (11) Just as other financial institutions are addressing climate change, the World Trade Organization (WTO) needs to be working on how it can address climate change issues related to trade in a comprehensive manner. (12) On the other hand, actions taken under the climate treaties should focus on how such measures can take advantage of trade liberalization (13) and avoid impediments to trade. This paper examines the relationship between the WTO and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with its Kyoto Protocol and indicates how it needs to change in order to facilitate the urgent action needed to address climate change. This paper then suggests that in the course of the Doha negotiations on trade and environment, the WTO membership should negotiate and adopt an agreement on the trade-related aspects of climate change law to promote emissions trading, address labeling requirements for GHG emissions and other climate-related process and production method (PPM)-based policy measures, and include the terms of the proposed agreement on trade in climate friendly technology. (14) In addition, this paper also recommends the establishment of a Committee on Trade and Climate Change to address all areas where climate issues intersect trade.

Part II gives an overview of the anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and how they are related to trade. Part III explains the goal, structure and trade-related articles of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, especially Kyoto's flexible market mechanisms. Part IV provides a short overview of the WTO's history, purpose, and dealings with environmental issues. Part V analyzes the points of convergence between the UNFCCC, its Kyoto Protocol and the WTO rules. …

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