Global Ethics Corner: Climate Protectionism and Competitiveness

Sep 18, 2009

The global circulation of goods is a major source of both prosperity and carbon emissions. This short audio on ethics asks: Can trade be regulated to maximize development and reduce environmental harm?

Trade has a magic.

You have what I want and vice versa. Through exchange we both benefit.

But what if the traded goods cause harm, through local pollution sickening factory workers or through global climate warming?

Climate treaties need enforcement mechanisms. If some countries fail to reduce emissions, others may turn to climate protectionism, using tariffs or quotas to regulate. Similarly, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 contains a Buy America clause.

So, is this climate rationale a legitimate restriction on trade or a smokescreen for protecting politically sensitive domestic industries? Would a carbon-based trade war succeed in reducing emissions, or just shift pollution elsewhere?

Developing countries often see the link between trade and environment as unjust because they have less technical capacity to adapt. Should their development be sacrificed to prop up firms in rich countries?

Others also claim that climate protectionism violates the letter and spirit of World Trade Organization resolutions, weakening the multilateral system.

The global circulation of goods is a major source of both prosperity and global warming.

What do you think? Can trade be regulated to maximize development and reduce emissions?

By Evan O'Neil

You may also like

President Macron at the World Economic Forum's Davos Agenda, January 2021. <br>CREDIT: <a href="">World Economic Forum/Pascal Bitz</a> <a href="">(CC)</a>

MAR 30, 2021 Article

ESG Offers Capacity, Capital, and Consensus for Global Challenges

In this article, Carnegie New Leader Ravipal Bains outlines an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) led reorientation of the global financial system. The core idea ...

MAY 6, 2022 Podcast

For Companies, Could China Be the Next Russia? with Perth Tolle

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the global financial backlash was swift and unprecedented: Dozens of financial institutions cut off their exposure to the Russian market ...

AUG 27, 2021 Journal

Ethics & International Affairs Volume 35.2 (Summer 2021)

The highlight of this issue is a roundtable organized by Adrian Gallagher on the responsibility to protect in a changing world order. The roundtable contains ...