Vice or Virtue? The Politics of Trade and Environment Linkages
As global challenges have become more complex and challenging, focus has turned to a search for innovative governance initiatives. Nowhere is this as pronounced as in global environmental governance, especially the inadequate ambition to tackle the worsening climate change crisis. Renewed interest in the role of trade policy as a viable tool has rekindled long running debates on its appropriateness in fostering global environmental governance. The formidable enforcement mechanisms of international trade agreements have been a particular attraction. Drawing on historical, econometric and case study analysis, this PhD thesis examines how Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs), the second pillar of the international trade regime, have been used to pursue environmental policy objectives. Overall, the study finds that, while PTAs have increasingly included environmental policy commitments, states have largely avoided leveraging PTAs’ enforcement mechanisms, especially trade sanctions, to foster compliance with environmental policy commitments. Moreover, the case study analysis shows that the global South, although often overlooked in the literature, has been active and innovative in leveraging their PTAs to pursue climate policy objectives. Based on these findings, two conclusions follow. First, enhanced understanding of how trade policy can be best leveraged will be a crucial piece of the global climate action puzzle. Second, and at the theoretical level, linkage of issue areas is emerging as an important defining feature of international politics. Whether it presents a promising pathway out of gridlock in global governance remains an interesting albeit important question for future research and policy.
Kennedy Liti Mbeva is currently a PhD candidate at the School of Social and Political Sciences, and the Climate and Energy College, University of Melbourne. His PhD research examines the role of trade policy in global environmental governance. Kennedy has previously worked in public policy research and served in international climate diplomacy. He has also received several prestigious academic awards and recognition for his research, including the Green Talents Fellowship and the Lawrence S. Finkelstein Prize.