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Climate change policy and international trade: Policy considerations in the US

Christofer L. Weber, Glen Peters

Significant recent attention, in both research and policy realms, has been given to the intersection of international trade and global climate change. Trade presents challenges to climate policy through carbon leakage and competitiveness concerns, but also potential solutions through the use of cooperative trade agreements, technology transfer, or carbon tariffs against recalcitrant nations. This study examines how trade may affect climate policy in the US and specifically examines the use of carbon tariffs as suggested by recent bills before the US Congress. We argue that even if such actions are legal at the World Trade Organization, they are probably not necessary to protect industrial competitiveness in the traditional sense, could cover only a small proportion of total embodied emissions in trade, and may in fact be counterproductive at a moment when global cooperation is desperately needed. While political agreement may necessitate at least the threat of carbon tariffs, cooperative agreements such as global sectoral agreements, technology sharing, etc. could be more productive in the short term

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