Think Piece

International Trade Disciplines and Policy Measures to Address Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Agriculture

December 2013
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An increasing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere is believed to be contributing to global warming. Agriculture is a significant contributor to GHG emissions through crop and animal production and land clearance, but it can also recycle and sequester atmospheric carbon. Climate change has major implications for global agriculture. Efforts will be made to mitigate GHG emissions by the agricultural sector and to increase its role in removing carbon from the atmosphere. Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns and greater climatic instability are problems that the sector will have to adapt to. Policies to promote mitigation and adaptation may be driven by domestic political concerns or by international climate agreements. The use of policy instruments for agriculture in response to climate change poses challenges for the international trading system. The extent to which mitigation or adaptation measures are consistent with current international trade disciplines is a major issue. Climate change policies could become a guise for protecting domestic food and agricultural sectors from international competition. An important issue that has to be addressed is what modifications need to be made to allow countries to achieve their objectives while, at the same time, preventing undue restrictions on trade. There is a potential for a clash with WTO trade rules depending on the choice of instruments and the way governments choose to implement these. A broad international consensus has to be reached on the issues and suitable approaches if the possibility for future conflict between climate policies and trade policies is to be reduced.

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