Climate Change and International Trade

Climate Change and International Trade

Rafael Leal-Arcas

Rafael Leal-Arcas expertly examines the interface of climate change mitigation and international trade law with a view to addressing the question: How can we make best use of the international trading system experience to aim at a global climate change agreement?

Chapter 4: Legal and policy responses to climate change

Rafael Leal-Arcas

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, international economic law, trade law


The global warming issue has been visible in the international agenda for some time. Nations spent the early years simply corroborating that climate change was a real and serious issue, without considering the need to be legally bound by international treaties in order to solve the problem. With time, there was a clear agreement within the international community that, unless nations were legally bound, there would be no progress in addressing global warming. In the early 1990s, most countries joined an international treaty – the UNFCCC – to consider what could be done to reduce global warming, and how to cope with inevitable temperature increases. Years later, a number of nations approved an addition to the UNFCCC, i.e., the Kyoto Protocol, which has more powerful (and legally binding) measures, although even that has not succeeded in a sincere and effective multilateral effort towards tackling climate change. In fact, so far, MEAs have not had much success, overall, in terms of global governance. In particular, the Kyoto Protocol has not succeeded in addressing the climate change problem as a common concern. Apart from the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, barely a single case of international law has solved an environmental problem.

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