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 6: Top-down and bottom-up approaches to climate change and trade

Rafael Leal-Arcas

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


This chapter argues that the Kyoto Protocol to the 1992 UNFCCC was doomed to face serious difficulties ab initio because it places the responsibility of reducing GHG emissions only with developed countries (i.e., Annex I countries) as if they were the only countries guilty of causing climate change, when in fact the whole world is collectively responsible for this. If the international community is serious about GHG emissions reduction, a more plausible way to reduce GHG emissions (which is the whole purpose of the exercise) is to involve major GHG emitters, irrespective of their GDP. For that, it would be necessary to amend the UNFCCC in order to get rid of its Annex I, which has proven to be a static approach to climate change mitigation. Amending treaties is a common praxis in other legal regimes. For instance, EU treaties are frequently amended on the basis of societal needs. A good example is the Treaty of Lisbon, which was amended to respond to the Euro crisis. The same could and should be done with the UNFCCC in order to adapt to today’s and tomorrow’s climate change needs.

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