Adequacy of ambition – lessons from WTO

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Date produced: 18/07/2013

What lessons about the adequacy of ambition can be learned from the WTO experience with a bottom-up “schedules” approach? What are possible means of enhancing the level of national and global ambition in such a design? How obligations pledged under the WTO are enforced?

The WTO/GATT experience with its system of tariffs reductions according to national Schedules of Commitments (see paragraph 4) hardly provides enough comparative elements for a clear understanding of the level of ambition in global emissions reductions in the Australian proposal, as that will very much depend on the political bargaining at bilateral and multilateral levels. Yet ambition (not adequacy) from the current levels of pledges could be raised as States might be more willing to take part of a flexible, soft-enforced structure, as the one proposed by Australia.

In regards to the level of fairness between States efforts, the Australian proposal certainly allows an enhanced degree of flexibility and differentiation between countries. Yet again, the actual level of equity will depend on the political context at the moment of adoption of the agreement and throughout the negotiations of each National Schedule. A particular feature of the Australian proposal seems to put on an even more equal level developed countries and other major economies, for the reason that the same binding legal framework would apply. This marks a significant shift not only from the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol approach, but also from the current NAMC/NAMA differentiation according to the Bali Action Plan.

There are possible means of enhancing the level of national and global ambition in such a design, but they depend on a set of specific features to agree on, which the Australian proposal does not tackle nor anticipate. In particular we identify the following issues that would need further clarification and negotiation and might have an impact on enhancing the level of ambition from the Australian proposal:

1) Setting a binding global goal of quantified emissions reductions to work as a legal tool for review of individual commitments in National Schedules.

2) A clearly structured legal framework of ‘Emissions Commitments Rounds’ of negotiations towards increased ambition.

3) A clarification of whether, when and on what basis countries commitments locked in NSs can be withdrawn or lowered in ambition according to the various rounds of negotiations. Accordingly, if withdrawal or lowering is explicitly forbidden, that would guarantee a better level of ambition.