The World Trade Organization (WTO) is often criticized for standing in the way of responses to climate change. Restrictions on domestic renewable energy subsidies under the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement) have drawn particular disfavor. But critics overlook the role that the SCM Agreement can play in similarly disciplining domestic fossil fuel subsidies. This Note demonstrates that potential role by focusing on one prominent fossil fuel subsidy in the United States: The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) coal leasing program on federal lands. The program is an actionable subsidy under the SCM Agreement because it provides coal mining rights to private companies at artificially low prices. In response, WTO member countries should challenge the BLM’s program, either by initiating a dispute at the WTO or by imposing countervailing duties on U.S. imports. WTO-authorized retaliation could shift the political calculus that keeps the current program in place, meaningfully reducing U.S. emissions.
The Federal Coal Leasing Program as an Actionable Subsidy Under International Trade Law,
Mich. J. Envtl. & Admin. L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjeal/vol9/iss2/7