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Handbook of Global Environmental Politics

Edited by Peter Dauvergne

The first Handbook of original articles by leading scholars of global environmental politics, this landmark volume maps the latest theoretical and empirical research in this young and growing field. Captured here are the dynamic and energetic debates over concerns for the health of the planet and how they might best be addressed.
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Chapter 20: Trade Liberalization and Global Environmental Governance: The Potential for Conflict

Kate O’Neill and William C.G. Burns


20 Trade liberalization and global environmental governance: the potential for conflict Kate O’Neill and William C.G. Burns This chapter assesses different arguments for the potential for conflict between the rules and treaties embodied in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and those embodied in multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). Its analysis underscores the importance of research into the way global governance orders interact, an area understudied in international environmental politics to date.1 The advent of the WTO has added several new twists to long-running debates on the trade–environment conflict. Daniel Esty (2000) has recently argued that the WTO needs to address trade–environment linkages for reasons of both economic efficiency and political legitimacy. Ken Conca (2000: 494) argues more strongly: The WTO has proven to be profoundly anti-environmental, handing down environmentally damaging decisions whenever it has had the chance to do so. Fears of a race to a dirty bottom are proving prescient, and optimism that trade rules can be greened from within has waned appreciably. These fears have underscored recent transnational protest against the WTO and its sister organizations. Activists argue that, to date, the WTO’s dispute resolution panels have had a reasonably consistent record in striking down domestic environmental legislation that uses trade sanctions to ensure enforcement. They further contend that this could ultimately threaten MEAs that rely on similar trade sanctions to ensure their enforceability (Charnovitz, 2002). On the other hand, some analysts argue that...

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