Trade and Climate Change: Environmental, Economic and Ethical Perspectives on Border Carbon Adjustments

Ethics, Policy and Environment 16 (1):79-93 (2013)
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This paper examines the nexus between climate change and trade governance from a normative perspective. Only little research attention has been paid to assessing the interactions between empirical and normative approaches to climate change in the context of potential trade measures. To this end, the paper focuses on currently discussed border carbon adjustment measures. The paper assesses these trade measures from a normative perspective: it explores whether they are compatible or in conflict with development ethics on the one hand and with climate ethics on the other. The paper finds that border adjustment measures are both a potential threat to development, as well as to a workable climate agreement. It argues that they are therefore both in conflict with development as well as climate ethics concerns. From a development ethics perspective, border adjustment measures are objectionable for two reasons. First, they hurt developing countries and above all the ones that are vulnerable in terms of relying only on few export goods. Second, border adjustment measures restrict market access for developing countries and thereby undermine the potential of trade to foster development. From a climate ethics perspective, border adjustment measures are objectionable for three reasons. First, border adjustment measures amount to unilaterally changing whatever global burden-sharing deal has been agreed to—thereby undermining procedural justice. Second, border adjustment measures disregard the consumption-dimension: it might be questioned whether it is fair to focus exclusively on making producers pay for emissions rather than also holding those responsible that import and consume the goods that incorporate these emissions. Third, even if border adjustment measures and countries with low emissions are exempted from border adjustment measures, they still burden countries that bear no historic responsibility for current high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, thereby undermining distributive justice by being in conflict with the polluter pays principle.



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Carbon Tax Ethics.Kian Mintz-Woo - 2023 - WIREs Climate Change 15 (1):e858.

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The law of peoples.John Rawls - 1999 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Edited by John Rawls.
World Poverty and Human Rights.Thomas Pogge - 2002 - Ethics and International Affairs 19 (1):1-7.
The Problem of Global Justice.Thomas Nagel - 2005 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 33 (2):113-147.
The Law of Peoples.John Rawls - 2001 - Philosophical Quarterly 51 (203):246-253.
The Law of Peoples.John Rawls - 1993 - Critical Inquiry 20 (1):36-68.

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