Potential for Tariffs as Climate Change Mitigation: Legal and Economic Analysis

by Sam Peterson

There exist many approaches to solving the problem of climate change, which generally can be delineated in one of two categories: adaptation and mitigation. Adaptive policies include efforts to change human behavior to be compatible with the evolving global climate. Mitigation techniques result from more stringent policies. Both carbon dioxide emission caps and legislation against use of fossil fuels are environmental approaches to mitigation policy. There also exist economic mitigation policies which, by their nature, utilize market forces to dissuade continued use of products harmful to the environment. Cottier (2014) examined the effects imposition of tariffs might have on decreased use of environmentally unfriendly goods and services. They conclude, through use of elasticity measurements, that multilateral action would be effective for pursuing tariff policy, which would lead to an “average 1.4% net reduction in carbon-intensive imports from a 5% increase in tariffs.” The paper examines the World Trade Organization (WTO) legislation surrounding tariffs and concludes that countries can act unilaterally to increase tariffs or act as a group. Continue reading