Assessing the Climate Impacts of U.S. Trade Agreements

San Fransisco Bay, CA by Ian Simmonds. Photo via Unsplash.

Meeting the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement will require the United States and other major greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters to integrate climate change considerations into all relevant areas of economic policy. The United States, however, has conspicuously failed to do so with regard to international trade negotiations. International trade agreements tend to increase GHG emissions due to the economic effects of trade liberalization, including increases in the scale of economic activity and changes in the composition of the affected economies. Trade agreements can also affect climate change in less quantifiable but potentially more significant ways by restricting the ability of governments to implement measures designed to mitigate climate change. Trade and investment rules in U.S. trade agreements have already been invoked to challenge a number of policies relevant to climate change, ranging from renewable energy programs to the Obama administration’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

Yet despite the growing evidence of the relevance of trade policy to climate change, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) largely ignores potential climate impacts when preparing environmental reviews of proposed trade agreements as required under Executive Order 13141. A journal article in the Michigan Journal on Environmental & Administrative Law from Kevin P. Gallagher and co-authors from the Working Group on Trade, Investment and Climate Policy explores how the USTR could address climate change within the environmental review process to both assess the potential economically driven and regulatory impacts of proposed trade agreements for climate change and identify options for mitigating those impacts.

Read the Journal Article