24 Jun 2016
WTO Rules Can Prevent Climate Change Mitigation for Agriculture
SIEL Working Paper 2016/6 by Christian Häberli presented at the SIEL biennial conference 2016:
This paper asks how countries can implement their commitments to limit the increase in the global average temperature under the recent Paris Agreement on Climate Change for agriculture. An initial examination of the relevant trade rules and case law indicates that they appear unable to legally secure the necessary differentiation of products and services according to their climate footprint. Indeed, the main purpose of the multilateral trade rules framework is to combat discrimination. This compatibility issue is compounded by the development dimension: while poor developing countries and poor farmers have always been and remain the least significant greenhouse gas emitters in absolute terms, they are among the most severely affected by, and the least resilient to climate change. This means that their food security is perhaps the gravest equity issue in the whole climate change discussion. Climate change therefore appears as a new, major and highly complex cause of (additional) food insecurity. The paper finds that contrary to the official discourse of ‘mutual supportiveness’ between trade and environment agreements, WTO rules and commitments can actually prevent climate action, for agriculture generally as well as with specific solutions for the development dimension. ‘Paris’ thus requires a comprehensive, careful and urgent review of the relevant agricultural trade and investment rules – and a number of adjustments commensurate with the multiple challenges of global warming.