With the challenges of access to energy, energy security and climate change imperatives becoming more pronounced in recent years, an interest in clean energy has surged. There is a need to phase out the use of fossil fuels, reduce energy intensity, and shift to a cleaner energy mix, making reform of the supply and use of energy a key priority for the global community.
As countries strive to accomplish this shift – often in combination with other policy goals such as generating domestic jobs and revenue – a range of policies and measures have been put in place, some of which have trade implications. Consequently, tensions arise and there is an increasing recourse to the WTO and its dispute settlement mechanism. This raises questions as to whether the existing rules are the most adequate to arbitrate and adjudicate.
Currently, there are no energy-specific rules or commitments in the WTO, nor any structured discussion in the WTO on issues related to renewable energy. Yet research indicates that a supportive framework of rules as well as targeted trade reform could contribute to fostering the scale-up of renewable energy. Given the considerable potential sustainable development benefits, this avenue should be fully explored and sustained.