Note: This webpage is prepared by the Secretariat under its own
responsibility and is intended only to provide a general explanation of
the subject matter it addresses. It is in no way intended to provide
legal guidance with respect to, or an authoritative legal interpretation
of, the provisions of any WTO agreement. Moreover, nothing in this note
affects, nor is intended to affect, WTO members' rights and obligations
in any way.
In addition to regulatory measures, national, regional or multilateral
initiatives to deal with climate change involve the adoption by
governments of price-based measures such as taxes and tariffs,
market-based mechanisms as well as a variety of other measures including
subsidies. As they relate to trade, these measures may be subject to WTO
rules and procedures. The design of climate change programmes and the
pursuit of international cooperation in this field will need to take
into account the potential trade impact of these measures and the
relevance of members' rights and obligations under WTO rules.
Broadly speaking, WTO rules and jurisprudence (the WTO “tool-box” of
rules) that relate generally to environmental issues (including
Article XX, the PPMs (processes and production methods) issue, and the
definition of a like product) are relevant to the examination of climate
change measures. The general approach under WTO rules has been to
acknowledge that some degree of trade restriction may be necessary to
achieve certain policy objectives as long as a number of carefully
crafted conditions are respected. A number of WTO rules may be relevant
to measures aimed at mitigating climate change. These include:
disciplines on tariffs (border measures), essentially prohibiting
members from collecting tariffs at levels greater than that provided for
in their WTO scheduled consolidation
a general prohibition against border quotas
a general non-discrimination principle, consisting of the
most-favoured-nation and national treatment principles.
rules on subsidies
rules on technical regulations and standards, which may not be more
restrictive than necessary to fulfil a legitimate objective. Technical
regulations and standards must also respect the principle of
non-discrimination and be based on international standards, where they
exist. There are also specific rules for sanitary and phytosanitary
measures which are relevant for agricultural products.
disciplines relevant to trade in services,
imposing general obligations such as most-favoured-nation treatment, as well as further obligations in sectors where individual members have undertaken specific commitments.
rules on trade-related intellectual property rights. These rules are
relevant for the development and transfer of climate-friendly
technologies and know-how.
> The impact of trade opening on climate change
> Activities of the WTO and the challenge of