Choosing a Future

Choosing a Future

The Social and Legal Aspects of Climate Change

Edited by Anna Grear and Conor Gearty

The issue is no longer whether climate change is happening; it is rather what we should now be doing about it. Drawing together key thinkers and policy experts, this unique volume – also a Special Issue of the Journal of Human Rights and the Environment - engages with the human dimensions of climate change, offering a timely intervention into contemporary debates about the challenging relationship between law and society in a time of climate crisis. The result is an imaginative, well-informed and provocative collection of contemporary engagements with the greatest challenge of the age, concerned not only to understand the current crisis but to offer perspectives on how it can be addressed. At the heart of this volume is the conviction that change is urgent, possible and morally imperative.

Chapter 8: Trade in the service of climate change mitigation: the question of linkage

Olivier De Schutter

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, human rights, law and society, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


This article takes as its departure point the problem of ‘carbon leakage’. While industrialized countries outsource their most polluting industries, they can pretend to comply with their commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions simply by increasing volumes of imports. Instead of the current fragmentation of the trade and climate change agendas, a more coherent system is needed, in which access to markets is made conditional on the adoption of more robust mitigation efforts, and in which developing countries are supported in such efforts. This article reviews a range of tools that could ensure such coherence, including higher import tariffs for goods produced through methods that do not use the cleanest technologies available, border tax adjustments and ecolabelling schemes. The article concludes that while defining a range of conditions that should be complied with in order to avoid the risk of GHG-reduction related conditionalities being misused for protectionist purposes, WTO law generally allows for meaningful linkages to be established between trade and climate change. It is possible, therefore, to move from the current state of fragmentation of global governance towards greater coherence. Doing so, it is argued here, would serve the cause of climate justice.

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