The Potential of Tariff Policy for Climate Change Mitigation: Legal and Economic Analysis
NCCR Trade Regulation Working Paper No. 2011/36, co-authored by Thomas Cottier, Olga Nartova and Anirudh Shingal.
This paper addresses a potential role that tariffs and tariff policy can play in encouraging countries to take part in a multilateral effort to mitigate climate change. It begins by assessing whether increasing tariffs on products from energy intensive or polluting industries amounts to a violation of WTO rules and whether protectionism in this case can be differentiated from genuine environmental concerns. It then argues that while lowering tariffs for environmental goods can serve as a carrot to promote dissemination of cleaner technologies, tariff deconsolidation is a legitimate stick to encourage polluting countries to move towards an international climate agreement. The paper further explores this view by undertaking a partialequilibrium simulation analysis to examine the impact of a unilateral unit increase in tariffs on the imports of the most carbon-intensive products from countries not committed to climate polices. Our results suggest that the committed importing countries would have to raise their tariffs only slightly to effect a significant decline in the imports of these products from the non-committed countries. For instance, a unit increase in the simple average applied tariffs on the imports of these carbon-intensive products in 2005 from our sample of non-committed exporting countries would reduce the imports of these products by an average 32.6% in Australia, 178% in Canada, 195% in the EU, 271% in Japan and 62% in the US, therebysuggesting the effectiveness of such a measure in pushing countries towards a global climate policy.