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Trade Policies and Climate Change

Border Carbon Adjustments as a Tool for a Just Global Climate Regime

There is an urgent need to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions. Because climate change is caused by actions regardless of where they take place on earth, it is generally considered that effective action must take place on a global scale. So far, multilateral attempts to coordinate action on a global level have failed to implement measures that are expected to prevent dangerous climate change, and unilat- eral measures are now being considered as an alternative way of achieving emissions reductions out- side of this context. In light of this, some advocate the use of Border Carbon Adjustments to address the various problems that arise when carbon mitigation policies are implemented on a unilateral basis. There are several arguments for or against the use of Border Carbon Adjustments, and most of these are addressed in the economic, legal, and policy literature. Little has been said on the implications of Border Carbon Adjustments for justice. The aim of this paper is to evaluate Border Carbon Adjust- ments as a policy tool for the mitigation of climate change. This paper argues that, whilst Border Car- bon Adjustments may be an effective way of achieving unilateral emission reductions, they face problems as far as global distributive justice is concerned and they can easily be perceived as an unac- ceptable shift towards a hostile and aggressive form of multilateral diplomacy. For this reason, Border Carbon Adjustments should be viewed with great caution and, if used at all, careful attention should be paid to designing their implementation in accordance with principles of justice.

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Published 29.10.2014
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