Autumn Semester 2021

Seminar: «Climate Change, National Security Law, and International Trade Law»

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Short Description
The past half century has been marked by an unprecedented expansion of international trade. At the same time, the hypothesis that the rise in average global temperatures (climate change) is largely human-induced has become the scientific consensus since the 1990s. More recently, the U.S. under President Joe Biden denoted climate considerations as an essential element of U.S. national security, just after the Trump Administration used national security as a basis for putting tariffs on products from around the world. The present moment provides an opportunity to examine just how these three themes converge and diverge. Will we see an increased reliance on national security tools in the trade space to deal with climate change concerns, for example? This seminar aims to shed light on the intersections between the laws of climate change, national security, and international trade.
The seminar will be co-taught by Professor Kathleen Claussen, University of Miami School of Law & Visiting Professor at University of Zurich Faculty of Law, and Professor Johannes Reich, University of Zurich Faculty of Law.

The seminar will be held in English. Term papers are supervised by either Kathleen Claussen or Johannes Reich and must be written in English. Master’s theses are supervised by Johannes Reich and may be written in English or German

Admission requirements
The seminar is designed for students of the Law Faculty (major) studying in either the BLaw-program (advanced level) or the MLaw-program. A limited number of students studying law as a minor may participate. Students are expected to have at least completed the assessment level of their BLaw-program. An advanced understanding of international law, constitutional law, and administrative law is required. Students wishing to participate in the seminar need to apply by sending an e-mail to lst.reich@rwi.uzh by 15 March 2021, 12.00 h CET, including:

  • a brief outline of your motivation to participate in the seminar;
  • three topics, ranked from one to three, chosen from the list below, outlining the topics of the term papers;
  • statement as to your study program (major or minor) and the number of semesters you have been studying.

We will inform you on your acceptance by the end of 16 March 2021. All the students taking part in the seminar are expected to participate in the short preliminary meeting to be held online on 17 March 2021 at 13.00 h CET via ZOOM.

Assessment (“Leistungsnachweis”)
The assessment consists of a seminar thesis of 6 ECTS-points or a master thesis of 12 ECTS-points and your active participation in the seminar.

Date & place
The seminar will be held as a workshop of two consecutive days at the University of Zurich in December 2021 (should COVID-19 allow). The exact dates will be announced in due course.

Meret Rehmann, MLaw
Research and Teaching Assistant
Office: RAI-F-093
+41 (0) 44 634 36 91


List of topics

  1. Climate change as a National Security concern: implications for adaption regulation in Switzerland
  2. What place is there, if any, for unilateral tools to combat climate change under international trade law?
  3. In what ways should international trade law be revised to accommodate climate change considerations?
  4. Will climate change and security dialogues force a change in international trade rules? If so, at what level (multilateral/regional, e.g.)?
  5. Institutional innovations for reenvisioning security and trade
  6. Alternatives to Border Carbon Adjustment taxes & their compatibility with trade law
  7. Prospects for environmental enforcement that link multilateral conventions to trade agreements (e.g., incorporating the Paris Agreement into the USMCA)
  8. Relationship between Covid-19 pandemic and advances in thinking about national security, climate, and trade
  9. Possibilities of a new generation of agreements that tackle trade, investment, and climate – apart from FTAs and multilateral regimes (legal viability?)
  10. How does national security case law (investment or trade) create space or limit space for climate change claims by states or investors?
  11. Is there a place for climate change policy within trade facilitation?
  12. How to accommodate developing countries in the climate-trade-security dialogue?
  13. What role for private sector actors in these spaces? Can they be held accountable? Should that be part of investment or trade reform?
  14. What requirements does international trade law pose to national policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? The gas of Switzerland
  15. Compatibility of the EU Emission Trading Scheme with WTO Law
  16. Compatibility of subsidies used as an incentive to encourage production or use of climate change friendly goods with the SCM Agreement
  17. Environmental assessment of trade agreements: (enough) consideration of cross-border pollutions? Case studies across several countries? Situation in Switzerland?
  18. WTO classification of biofuels and implications for climate change
  19. Environmental benefits of removing trade restrictions in the energy and forestry sectors
  20. The effect of energy efficiency labelling on market access
  21. Climate change regulation and Bilateral Investment Treaties: (how) do they hinder climate policy?
  22. Case studies of investment arbitration cases relevant to climate change
  23. Procurement law: new GPA (2012) – a gateway to make room for climate change concerns?
  24. The expansion of judicial lawmaking by the WTO Appellate Body: good for the environment?
  25. Liberalizing environmental goods and services (eliminating trade barriers in goods and services benefiting the environement) – case studies of a concrete example of goods
  26. Second Generation Bilateral Investment Treaties (responsible investment provisions) E.G.: What scope, if any, should there be for third parties to invoke responsible investment provisions?
  27. Climate change as a national security concern: Implications for the national security exception under Article XXI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994?
  28. Is there a need for a concept of “climate asylum” in international law?