Emissions trading and the GATS financial services provisions : a case study of the Australian carbon pricing mechanism

Deane, Felicity (2014) Emissions trading and the GATS financial services provisions : a case study of the Australian carbon pricing mechanism. Journal of International Trade Law and Policy, 13(1), pp. 44-66.

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The purpose of this paper is to determine whether greenhouse gas (GHG) tradeable instruments will be classified as financial products within the scope of the World Trade Organization (WTO) law and to explore the implications of this finding.


This purpose is achieved through examination of the units of the Australian Carbon Pricing Mechanism (CPM), namely eligible emissions units. These units are analysed through the lens of the definition of financial products provided in the General Agreement for Trade in Services (the GATS).


This paper finds that eligible emissions units will be classified as financial instruments, and therefore the provisions that govern their trade will be regulated by the GATS. Considering this, this paper explores the limitations that are introduced by the Australian legislation on the trade of eligible emissions units.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is limited in its analysis to the Australian CPM. In order to draw conclusions on the issues raised by this analysis it is necessary to consider the WTO requirements against an operating emissions trading scheme. The Australian CPM presents a contemporary model of an appropriate scheme.


The findings in this paper are crucial in a GHG constrained society. This is because emissions trading schemes are becoming popular measures for pricing GHG emissions, and for this reason the units that are traded and surrendered for emissions liabilities must be classified appropriately on a global scale. Failing to do this could result in differential treatment that may be contrary to the intentions of important global agreements, such as the WTO covered agreements.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 67537
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: World Trade Organization, Financial Services, The General Agreement on Trade in Services, Emissions trading, Emissions trading allowances, Climate Change, Services
DOI: 10.1108/JITLP-06-2013-0017
ISSN: 1477-0024
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > International Trade Law (180117)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Commercial & Property Law Research Centre
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright Statement: This article is (c) Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here. Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Deposited On: 20 Feb 2014 01:15
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2015 17:47

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