“The multilateral trading system must better ensure the freedom of climate action”

RResponding to the challenge of climate change requires resolute action by all economic actors, public and private, producers and consumers. They must be part of a coordinated and vigorous framework, at the national level of course, but equally at the international level.

Contrary to these imperatives, it is instead inertia and confusion that threaten us today. Very few countries can claim to have taken measures commensurate with their announced contributions to the 2015 Paris Agreement, and even less proportionate to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, or even 2°C.

Furthermore, significant initiatives are rarely part of a cooperative framework, which is the only way to ensure overall coherence. As a result, inaction fuels tensions, with each country blaming its partners for the inadequacy of their efforts; failure to coordinate in turn undermines the action, reducing both its effectiveness and legitimacy (why accept constraints if it feels like you’re the only one doing it?).

The challenge of political economy

Multilateralism, ie the organization of international relations on the basis of common rules, is essential to get out of this vicious circle, provided it is rethought according to this objective. As time is short and the multilateral pace is slow and based on compromises often based on the lowest common denominator, priority must be given to domestic policies.

Read Philippe Escande’s column: Article reserved for our subscribers “The climate transition is a transformation of scale similar to the industrial revolutions of the past”

The task is already considerable, since the fight against global warming presupposes questioning – consumption and production models, social and industrial positions – while requiring the finding of the necessary resources for this great transformation. The most pressing challenge in the climate fight is therefore that of political economy: to avert inaction, we must first create internal climate alliances.

The interesting position of the US administration

This is what Joe Biden’s administration managed to get Congress to pass the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022. This example is instructive, because it is by conditioning public support for the ecological transition on local content clauses, which are blatantly contrary to the multilateral commitments of the United States, which has formed a coalition between environmentalists, employees and industrialists.

Also read the column: Article reserved for our subscribers Jean Pisani-Ferry: “The American Inflation Reduction Act raises questions about the European Union’s climate strategy”

Other solutions were possible, which would have better reconciled the American initiative with international coordination. But being the internal political tensions what they are, who can say that they could be achieved in a reasonable time? This law is open to criticism in many respects and its structure makes Europeans fear unfair competition in the industries most affected by these decarbonisation subsidies.

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