The paper examines the nexus between climate change and trade governance from a normative
perspective. Only little research attention has been paid to assessing the interactions between
empirical and normative approaches to climate change in the context of potential trade measures. To
this end, the paper focuses on currently discussed carbon border adjustment measures. This paper
assesses these trade measures from a normative perspective: it explores whether they are
compatible or in conflict with development ethics on the one hand and with climate ethics on the
The paper finds that border adjustment measures are both a threat to development as well as to a
workable climate agreement. It argues that they are therefore both in conflict with development as
well as climate ethics concerns. From a development ethics perspective, border adjustment
measures are objectionable for two reasons. First, they hurt developing countries and above all the
ones that are vulnerable in terms of relying only on few export goods. Second, border adjustment
measures restrict market access for developing countries and thereby undermine the potential of
trade to foster development. From a climate ethics perspective, border adjustment measures are
objectionable for the following reasons. First, border adjustment measures amount to unilaterally
changing whatever global burden-sharing deal has been agreed to – thereby undermining procedural
justice. Second, border adjustment measures disregard the consumption-dimension: it might be
questioned whether it is fair to focus on making the producers pay for emissions rather than also
holding those responsible that import and consume the goods that incorporate these emissions.
Third, even if border adjustment measures and countries with low emissions are exempted from
border adjustment measures, they still burden countries that bear no historic responsibility for
current high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, thereby undermining distributive justice
by being in conflict with the polluter pays principle.
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