Research Handbook on the WTO and Technical Barriers to Trade

Research Handbook on the WTO and Technical Barriers to Trade

Research Handbooks on the WTO series

Edited by Tracey Epps and Michael J. Trebilcock

A relatively new frontier for legal and policy analysis, technical barriers to trade (TBT’s) have become more common as traditional border barriers have been reduced. This comprehensive Handbook comprises original essays by eminent trade scholars exploring the implications of the WTO’s TBT Agreement.

Chapter 11: Contemporary problems of climate change and the TBT Agreement: Moving beyond eco-labelling

Michael Cardwell and Fiona Smith

Subjects: law - academic, international economic law, trade law


Stores abound with products bearing ‘climate friendly’ labels giving information ranging from the fact that food has not been imported by air freight to the energy efficiency of a particular product. As shown by a 2009 Gallup poll conducted for the European Commission, ‘climate friendly’ labels and certification schemes play a vital role in purchasing decisions, with 47 per cent of respondents listing an eco-label as a key trigger for making their choice of foodstuffs; and 72 per cent supporting mandatory carbon footprint labelling. This new generation of technical regulations and standards are, on such a view, about influencing and enabling producers and consumers to play their part, together with the state, in resolving the global collective problem that is climate change. Food security too remains at the forefront of the international community’s agenda, with many participants pointing to the problems created by the transfer of cereal crops from the food chain into biofuels. One policy response has been to impose certification schemes designating ‘sustainability’ criteria to be met in the production of biofuel feedstock and, in this context, a key feature has been the involvement of a wide range of actors. Indeed, there has been formal recognition of voluntary schemes developed by organizations whose express purpose is to promote sustainability, such as Bonsucro and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels. Despite the continuing ‘push’ from producers and consumers, the legality of ‘climate friendly’ labelling and certification schemes arguably remains uncertain for the purposes of the TBT Agreement.

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