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Research Handbook on Environment, Health and the WTO

Research Handbook on Environment, Health and the WTO

Research Handbooks on the WTO series

Edited by Geert Van Calster and Denise Prévost

This Handbook provides state-of-the-art analysis by leading authors on the links between the international trade regime and health and environment concerns – concerns that make up an increasing proportion of WTO dispute settlement. Research Handbook on Environment, Health and the WTO surveys fields as diverse as climate change mitigation, non-communicable diseases, nanotechnology and public health care. The volume brings to the fore the debates and complexities surrounding these issues and their implications for the international trading system.

Chapter 14: International trade and climate change

Thomas Cottier and Nashina Shariff

Subjects: environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, health law, international economic law, trade law


Climatic changes over time have been a major factor influencing human history and civilization. From the fall of the Mayan Empire to the collapse of the Mesopotamians, changing patterns of temperature and precipitation have influenced the fate of regions and kingdoms. Perhaps more than we know, the history of international trade has been influenced by climatic changes, inducing the rise and fall of global trading centers throughout the history of mankind. International trading regimes from barter trade to mercantilism and the ideals of free trade all had to cope with such changes in nature. In modern times the exploitation of fossil fuels that enabled the industrial revolution and has fueled economic growth thereafter has led humanity to a juncture where societies are not only affected by but also have effects on the climate. The result is that the intersection of trade rules and climate change will be of increasing importance in the years to come. They not only need to cope with natural climatic changes, but also to address man-made causes of climate change and its repercussions.

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