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School of Law

Dr Rafael Leal-Arcas, featured speaker at the World Trade Institute, Switzerland


Dr Rafael Leal-Arcas presented his most recent book titled Climate Change and International Trade at the World Trade Institute, University of Bern, Switzerland, on 9 April 2013.

The book is unique in that it uses trade as a tool to move the climate agenda forward by presenting the following new approaches to climate change mitigation:

a. A Bottom-up Approach to Climate Change

The book proposes a bottom-up approach to climate change negotiations by using the evolution of multilateral trade agreements as a model for reaching a global climate treaty. Given the difficulties of reaching a global climate change agreement, the book argues that a more effective (and presumably fairer) way to tackle climate change today is by bringing together the major GHG emitters, irrespective of their GDP. The Kyoto Protocol’s stipulation that only Annex I countries reduce their GHG emissions does not reflect today’s or tomorrow’s climate change reality. Major developing countries that are major GHG emitters should also be asked to reduce their GHG emissions, if the aim is to solve the climate issue. This is an example of the bottom-up approach proposed in this book. Why? Seen prospectively, climate change is a developing-countries problem, since they have already surpassed the industrialized world in total GHG emissions, and will account for more than 75 per cent of emissions growth in the next 25 years.

Moreover, the book explores potential lessons which can be drawn from bottom-up diplomacy in international trade, using critical mass agreements. In doing so, it draws lessons from the international trading system and explores the possibilities of applying the GATT/WTO model to a post-Kyoto climate deal.

b. Using RTAs to Address Climate Change

The book also presents the innovative approach of creating regional trade agreements (RTAs) with strong climate change chapters, thus embedding climate goals within bilateral/trilateral/plurilateral trade agreements, given their proliferation—especially bilateral—in the international trading system. Involving major GHG emitters through RTAs and economic partnership agreements, with climate chapters attached, can be an effective avenue towards reducing GHG emissions, and could therefore facilitate the ultimate goal of creating an effective global climate regime. This is something governments should explore. Current and future RTAs could be used as discussion platforms of climate-related trade issues. Such RTAs could be broad in scope so as to cover, for instance, investment and environmental technology transfer.



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