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Law and Development Review

Editor-in-Chief: Lee, Y.S.

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Harmonizing International Trade and Climate Change Institutions: Legal and Theoretical Basis for Systemic Integration

Damilola S. Olawuyi
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  • Director, Institute for Oil, Gas, Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development (OGEES), Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Ekiti, Nigeria
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Published Online: 2014-09-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ldr-2014-0023


Despite increased global awareness that measures, policies and rules aimed at combating climate change may act as barriers to international trade; trade and climate change regimes continue to operate at the international level, without the desired level of coherence and harmony. While emission reduction obligations are negotiated under the purview of the United Nations Framework Convention on Change (UNFCCC); trade-related rules and regimes are under the purview of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The result is the proliferation of several international obligations, standards, procedures and requirements that ultimately make international trade more difficult; and efforts to combat climate change, less concerted. For example, the availability, affordability and accessibility of environmentally sustainable technologies (ESTs) needed in developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change is occurring at a slower pace due to different technology importation requirements, efficiency standards, trade requirements and WTO procedures; while unilateral measures adopted in developed countries such as the alternative energy programs and the “food mile” policy; currently threaten the importation of goods produced in developing countries. The result is an international legal system where emission reduction obligations overlap and sometimes conflict with trade obligations and vice versa.

A solution to this problem is the harmonization and integration of trade and climate change obligations and institutions, through a coordinated and holistic approach. This approach would include taking into account the institutional aspects of these relationships and establishing more normative platforms for cross-fertilization between trade and climate change regimes. This paper evokes the importance of the principles of systemic integration and coherent interpretation of international law obligations laid down in Article 31(3)(c) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties in arguing that the idea of integrating obligations established in climate change treaties with obligations in trade instruments is a mandatory requirement of treaty interpretation and implementation under international law.

Keywords: climate change; trade; international law

About the article

Published Online: 2014-09-25

Published in Print: 2014-10-01

Citation Information: Law and Development Review, Volume 7, Issue 1, Pages 107–129, ISSN (Online) 1943-3867, ISSN (Print) 2194-6523, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ldr-2014-0023.

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©2014 Law and Development Review.

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