22 November 2017
Professor Dr Rafael Leal-Arcas, Jean Monnet Chaired Professor of EU International Economic Law at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), was invited to present his current research on how trade agreements can help mitigate climate change and enhance clean energy. The title of his presentation was ‘How to Reach Sustainability: The Role of Trade Agreements in Mitigating Climate Change and Enhancing Sustainable Energy,’ at Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, on 15-16 November 2017. Professor Leal-Arcas was also a Panel chair in the same conference.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges humanity faces today. Today, 80% of the global energy supply comes from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels contribute to climate change and are finite, which leads to energy insecurity. Renewable energy can help here in that it is cleaner than fossil fuels. It also helps towards energy independence and therefore enhances energy security. Trade law could be used as a vehicle to achieve this goal. We argue that trade agreements can help mitigate climate change since, in the past, they have been a very powerful instrument for change. This chapter first provides an overview of the links between the international trading system, climate action and sustainable energy. It then offers an analysis of how trade agreements can be enhancers of sustainable development and the transition towards a decarbonized economy. It then shows a textual analysis of environmental or climate-change-related provisions in several major free trade agreements and offers a case for bundling environmental and trade agreements. The last section before the conclusions brings forward necessary actions for the drafting of 21st-century trade agreements that aim at being supportive of climate action and sustainable energy.