Climate activists gather for a rally and march as they take part in a global strike demanding action on climate change, in Washington, DC. Picture taken on March 25, 2022.

Publication Type

How trade cooperation by the United States, the European Union, and China can fight climate change

Working Papers 23-8
Photo Credit: NurPhoto/Bryan Olin Dozier


Recent efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have revealed different policy priorities; the United States and China have emphasized subsidy-based approaches, and the European Union has emphasized carbon pricing. These divergent policy choices—some lowering energy costs, others raising them—raise concerns about industry competitiveness and have implications for upstream and downstream firms in supply chains. This paper identifies the trade tensions resulting from varying climate policy approaches and describes policy efforts to address them. It then describes the role of a rules-based trading system in tackling the challenges that these distinct policy approaches create, examining World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on subsidies, border measures, and export restrictions. The authors suggest that the United States, the European Union, and China prioritize reforms to those rules as a path forward for cooperation on trade and climate. Such an approach would be an important starting point toward creating a functioning multilateral system.

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The data underlying this analysis can be downloaded here [zip].

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