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Title: Sustainability and biofuels : reconciling social and environmental criteria with WTO law
Author: Lydgate, Emily
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis examines European Union (’EU’) biofuels sustainability criteria in the context of the law of the World Trade Organization (’WTO’). The criteria were introduced as part of the 2009 EU Renewable Energy and Fuel Quality Directives. There has been no dispute; however, uncertainty about the criteria’s WTO-compatibility has inspired a number of legal analyses concluding that they are not compliant. Whether or not there is the political will for a dispute, it is interesting to consider sources of potential non-compliance. As they pursue ’sustainability,’ the EU criteria are well positioned to prompt larger questions regarding the relationship between international trade rules and sustainable development, described by the WTO Secretariat as a central WTO principle. The thesis identifies a core challenge: dispute settlement mechanisms to identify de facto discrimination risk including regulations that exhibit particular characteristics. EU criteria exemplify these characteristics, which also seem likely to apply to sustainability regulation more broadly. These include breadth, complexity and process-orientation, and response to emerging environmental problems. Thus, the criteria may be perceived as protectionist even though this is not their intent. The larger implication is that, despite its centrality in principle, applying sustainable development through national regulation raises particular challenges of WTO law. The Appellate Body must strike a balance between achieving the WTO’s primary mandate of trade liberalization and showing appropriate deference toward trade-restrictive regulations, particularly those, like EU criteria, that pursue climate change mitigation and other important social and environmental objectives. While this case study suggests a potential imbalance in favour of trade liberalization, the Appellate Body may redress this without major structural reform, as relevant WTO provisions have a range of interpretation, and dispute settlement outcomes continue to evolve.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available