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Using the WTO to Facilitate the Paris Agreement: A Tripartite Approach

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

Author: Antonia Eliason


Climate change is the greatest threat humanity has faced, and its challenges can only be addressed through multilateral means. Lacking in accountability and enforcement mechanisms, however, the Paris Agreement requires additional support to achieve its full effect. Although not perfectly aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement, the WTO’s multilateral framework could provide the necessary flexibilities to work toward meeting the Paris Agreement’s targets. This Article proposes a novel three- pronged approach for refocusing the multilateral trading system and facilitating the Paris Agreement.

First, the preamble to the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization explicitly recognizes sustainable development as a goal, seeking to protect and preserve the environment. It also recognizes the need for developing countries to share in the growth of international trade. Giving meaning and effect to sustainable development is key to facilitating the Paris Agreement. The second prong recognizes that certain types of climate change mitigation measures may require violating WTO rules. In such circumstances, limited carve-outs in the mold of the public stockpiling exception relating to food security, with additional built-in sunset provisions, would provide support for countries working to meet their targets. Finally, the third prong envisions the negotiation of a multilateral or plurilateral agreement to help give effect to the Paris Agreement. Key to this agreement would be special and differential treatment (S&DT) provisions. The Trade Facilitation Agreement contains next- generation S&DT provisions, which could be leveraged in the context of a future plurilateral or multilateral agreement to help give effect to the Paris Agreement.


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