University of Surrey Institute of Advanced Studies

University of Surrey

From Production to Consumption: Legal and Policy Challenges to a New Approach to Climate Change

30 May 2008

Workshop Report

On 30 May 2008, the Surrey European Law Unit (SELU), the Environmental Regulatory Research Group (ERRG), and the Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES) of the University of Surrey successfully organised a one day workshop in which speakers and participants explored possible legal and policy challenges to the on-going effort from production to consumption as the basis for responsibility for emissions and their reduction. The workshop was sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Studies and the School of Law of the University of Surrey. During the workshop 6 papers were presented throughout three sessions.

  1. Sustainable Consumption, Policy and Regulation
  2. In the first session Prof. Roland Clift (Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey) gave an overview of GHG emissions that originate from western consumptive behaviour. This was followed by Prof. Michael Grubb (Carbon Trust, Cambridge University) who talked about the political and institutional dimensions of h the EU and the US. This presentation was followed by Mr Larry Lohman (The Cornerhouse) who critically assessed the contribution of emissions trading to sustainable development. This session was chaired by Dr Yacob Mulugetta (Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey).


The presentations and the debate throughout the workshop highlighted four lessons. The first one reminded participants of the size of the challenge we were facing. Dealing with climate change is tantamount for the international community. Bringing in a climate friendly life cycle analysis approach is crucial, but particularly complicated because it implies taking difficult environmental choices. Furthermore, it raises sustainability issues whereas climate change may negatively relate with other environmental concerns, such as biodiversity ones.

The second conclusion is that there must be more effort into finding ways to bringing together the different institutions that have a role to play in the climate change challenge. On the one hand, linking in the proper way the biodiversity and climate regime institutions was crucial. On the other hand, one must not forget the role of private institutions, such as ISO.

The third conclusion is that law must not be considered an obstacle in the adoption of sustainable climate policies. In particular, international trade law does not constitute a problem for States wanting to implement sustainable consumption climate policies. It was argued that the evolution of the WTO trade and environment jurisprudence has given more leverage to the country of consumption vs the country of production. Border Tax Adjustments, if designed in a country neutral way, could be WTO-compatible.

The final conclusion is that the climate debate is usually framed as a US vs THEM question. It had been shown in the workshop that a lot of the products with a high percentage of embedded carbon produced in developing countries were not only then consumed in the West, but were actually produced by joint-ventures in which Western companies participate. Taking this into account could soften the US vs THEM approach to a great extent.

However, one final consideration was that climate change was becoming more and more a financial issue and that the debate and the questions of climate change seemed to be moving from environmental law to banking law.


At the end of the workshop, participants expressed the need for continuing the debate that had been established between them. Plans were made to publish the outcomes of the workshop as a Surrey Working Paper. Furthermore, several speakers have published papers based on their presentations at the workshop.

December 2008