Climate Negotiations and Action Trade Policy at Work

Make a Difference! – Differential Treatment of Developing Countries in Trade and Climate Change Regimes

The objective of this paper is to examine and compare the main elements of both SDT under the WTO and CBDR-RC under the UNFCCC with a view to promoting a better understanding of these concepts in the two fora and learning useful lessons for their better implementation in each.

Trade and climate change communities – including policy-makers, negotiators and other stakeholders – need to close ranks to achieve global prosperity for all in a sustainable future. This will only be possible through more intensive exchange and better communication between the two communities. To facilitate and promote this, FES Geneva and CUTS International Geneva are putting out three perspectives on issues involving both the multilateral trading system and the international climate regime, while traversing the spotlight to subject areas which are being addressed within the framework of both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). This will nurture an understanding for these issues in a larger framework on the part of the trade and climate change communities.

Perspective N°3 in the series focuses on differential treatment of developing countries. Both the multilateral trading system and the international climate change regime generally recognise that the rights and obligations of individual members should correspond to their levels of development.

This is addressed through the concept of Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) in the WTO, which has a long history, as well as a number of specific provisions in various agreements. One can argue that the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capacities under the UNFCCC serves a similar purpose by aligning responsibilities with contributions of Members to climate change as well as their capacities – both generally linked to the level of development of a Member.