WEO: A WTO for the Environment?

In a former life I was an international trade lawyer. My focus was what used to be called GATT and is now known as the World Trade Organization. One of the surprising things about wildlife law is that the primary multilateral treaty to protect wildlife, CITES, is not an “environmental” agreement, it is a trade agreement. CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and establishes a framework for trading wildlife based on rarity.

Unlike the WTO, however, CITES has a very limited enforcement mechanism. If we subjected our automobile and computer trade to the CITES framework we would quickly see its shortcomings as a trade agreement. Commodifying life as a tradeable good has its own issues but so does allowing countries to police themselves. Here is an interesting idea for a World Environment Organization, informed by the WTO.

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