Climate Clubs – Key Design and WTO Compliance Issues

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There is growing interest in developing “climate clubs,” smaller groups of countries focused on coordinating climate policy, to accelerate climate action. Climate Advisers shares this brief analyzing the key factors to design effective clubs that comply with World Trade Organization rules.

Proposals for climate clubs so far have varied significantly, making it difficult to evaluate the relative merits of different approaches. The intention of this paper is to share insights on how governments can conceive and develop climate clubs.

This paper provides a broad overview of some of the more prominent proposals for climate clubs and suggests that they can be assessed based on the following three factors:

  1. Purpose
  2. Scope
  3. Compliance with WTO Rules

Based on these three factors, the paper concludes with recommendations for governments that are considering negotiating climate clubs.

Matthew C. Porterfield, Deputy Director and Adjunct Professor, The Harrison Institute for Public Law, Georgetown University Law Center is the primary author of this paper.

The author thanks Nigel Purvis, Claire Langley, and Matthew Piotrowski at Climate Advisers, as well as George Frampton at the Atlantic Council, for their comments and encouragement. Elizabeth Butscher, Melissa McCafferty, and Xuetao Wang provided valuable research assistance for this paper.

This paper was prepared as a contribution to a transatlantic climate dialogue organized by Climate Advisers and the Atlantic Council, in cooperation with the Federal Government of Germany and the United States. Climate Advisers and the Atlantic Council also wish to thank the ClimateWorks Foundation for sponsoring transatlantic dialogue and research on trade and climate issues relating to industrial decarbonization.