Tables may be turned on US over Kyoto (Lisa Plit, 9/29/05, Business Day)

ALTHOUGH the US, the world’s leading carbon polluter, remains outside the Kyoto Protocol, its hand could well be forced in the not too distant future. Having declined to ratify Kyoto, the US is not obliged to meet the emission reduction targets the protocol lays down, ostensibly on the grounds that it would hurt the US economy.

By staying out, the US could gain significant economic advantage over its industrialised counterparts that are party to the protocol as they will, in the short term, incur major implementation costs.

Not surprisingly, these countries are so peeved that they may turn to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, predecessor to the WTO, contained a provision that could be used to provide some protection for the environment. It recognised that, in exceptional circumstances — including the need to protect human, animal or plant life or health, and to conserve exhaustible natural resources — international trade could be

The WTO founding documentation states that while “trade and economic endeavour should be conducted with a view to raising standards of living”, it should allow “for the optimal use of the world’s resources in accordance with the objective of sustainable development”. It should also seek to protect and preserve the environment and enhance the means for doing so “in a manner consistent with their respective needs and concerns at different levels of economic development”.

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