Reforming Fossil Fuel Subsidies for Climate Mitigation: What Trade Policy Options?

WTO: Paths Forward
Organised by
24 May 2018
Geneva, Switzerland

With the adoption of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international community has demonstrated its resolve to commit to a more sustainable future. To make progress towards this end, policies need to be streamlined in accordance with the objective of sustainable development. One policy area which currently stands in stark contrast to this objective relates to the subsidisation of fossil fuels. These subsidies do not only harm the environment, but also depress growth, reinforce inequality, add to health hazards and slow down the energy transition. The need to reform and ultimately phase them out is thus urgent.

The WTO could play an important role in this regard. Its binding nature and mechanism for enforcement and compliance might allow for the necessary shift from best-endeavour pledges to actual implementation. While the trade system has relevant tools in place for addressing subsidies, including mechanisms for notification and for review, a subsidy agreement as well as sectoral agreements applying to subsidies, these need to be upgraded to better respond to the challenges of the 21st century, including climate change. The recent ministerial statement on fossil fuel subsidies issued by 12 countries during MC11 is a first step in this direction.

This event aims to demonstrate the urgency of tackling fossil fuel subsidies and discuss several reform options which could be considered by the trade system. The dialogue will consist of two sessions. The first will showcase impacts of fossil fuel subsidies on climate change, health and the energy transition. The second session will make the case for using the trade system to address fossil fuel subsidies and discuss potential options to this end.

The event will take place at the Domaine de Penthes, Chemin de l'Impératrice 18, 1292 Pregny-Chambésy (Geneve), Switzerland.

Please use the registration tab on the left to register for the event.



James Bacchus is Senior Counsellor at the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD). He is also Distinguished University Professor of Global Affairs and Director of the Center for Global Economic and Environmental Opportunity at the University of Central Florida. He was one of the seven founding Members and served twice as the Chairman of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization, the highest international tribunal of world trade.  He is a former Member of the Congress of the United States and a former US international trade negotiator. For more than 14 years following completion of his service on the WTO Appellate Body he was chair of the global practice of the largest law firm in the United States and one of the largest in the world. He is the author of the books Trade and Freedom (2004) and The Willing World: Shaping and Sharing a Sustainable Global Prosperity (forthcoming in 2018 from Cambridge University Press). He appears frequently on leading platforms and in prominent publications worldwide.


Christophe BELLMANN is a Senior Resident Research Associate at ICTSD with more than 20 years of experience working on international trade negotiations and policy making from a sustainable development perspective. Mr. Bellmann joined ICTSD in 1998, first as Programme Officer for Outreach and Partnership, then as Director of Policy Dialogues and since 2002, as Programmes Director. Before joining our Organisation, Mr. Bellmann worked for the Swiss Coalition of Development Organisations (SCDO) where he was responsible for activities on multilateral trade and sustainable development issues. Mr. Bellmann has also worked as a Research Associate at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile, on the relationship between trade and the environment.

Mr. Bellmann has edited and published a wide range of books, articles and opinion pieces in English, French and Spanish on trade and sustainable development. His work focuses on international trade negotiations, development policies and environmental governance in areas such as agriculture and food security, fisheries, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, rules, regional trade, services and intellectual property rights, He holds an MA in International Relations from the Graduate Institute for International Studies in Geneva. Mr. Bellmann is a citizen of Switzerland.



Dr Campbell-Lendrum has played key roles in the 2008 World Health Assembly Resolution on climate change and health, and is a lead author of the health chapter of the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Álvaro Cedeño Molinari was appointed Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the WTO on February 2015. Among his responsibilities he holds his country’s representation at the OECD, in Paris, France, during the current process of accession to the membership.

Previously, he held the post of Ambassador of Costa Rica to Tokyo, Japan (2011-­2014). His experience in public service includes being Commercial Attaché at the Embassy of Costa Rica in Beijing, China (2007­‐2009) and Chief of Staff to the Minister of Foreign Trade (2006-­2007).

Ambassador Cedeño has a Law degree from the University of Costa Rica, and has a masters in Peace Studies and Conflict Transformation from the University of Tromsø Norway, and a masters in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Melloin University. He is enthusiastic about social media, environmental issues and social innovation. He is married and has one daughter, born in Norway 2013. 

Sonja Hawkins is the Programme Officer in the Climate & Energy programme at ICTSD. In this capacity, she designs, implements and manages projects, dialogues and research on topics at the intersection of climate change, trade and sustainable development. Sonja has published several papers and articles, including on fossil fuel subsidies, carbon markets, consumption-side climate policies, and climate governance. Prior to joining ICTSD in 2013, Sonja had worked at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and as a journalist covering UN and WTO news from Geneva. Sonja holds an M.Sc. in International Public Policy from the University College London (UCL) and a B.A. in Governance & Public Policy from the University of Passau, Germany. Sonja is fluent in English, German and French.


Anna Marhold is Assistant Professor and Senior Researcher at the Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC), at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, where she researches and teaches on various topics of international and European law. Her main interests lie at the intersection of international economic law and energy and environmental regulation. Anna is also a fellow at the Cambridge University-based C-EENRG Platform on Global Energy Governance. In addition to her academic activities, Anna regularly provides policy advice for international and European think tanks.

Anna obtained her PhD in Law at the European University Institute (EUI) under the supervision of Professor Petros Mavroidis. During her PhD, she was an EU-US Fulbright Schuman Grantee and Visiting Scholar at NYU School of Law. Additionally, she was a Marie Curie Early Research Fellow at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. Anna holds parallel degrees in Law (LLB, LLM) and Russian (BA, MA) from the University of Amsterdam.


Ricardo MELÉNDEZ-ORTIZ is co-founder of ICTSD and has been its Chief Executive since 1996. Previously, he co-founded and was General Director of Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (Quito). He has represented Colombia as a negotiator in several multilateral fora, including as permanent delegate of Colombia in Geneva and as a negotiator in GATT’s Uruguay Round, the Rio’92 UN Conference process, UNCTAD VIII, the Climate Change Convention, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Montreal Protocol. He acted as spokesperson for the G77 in several fora and served as chair of the UN Standing Committees on Commodities and on Trade Preferences. Earlier, he had served as Principal Adviser to the Colombian Minister of Economic Development and as Chief of Administration of the Office of the President of Colombia. Since 1997, Mr. Meléndez-Ortiz has been the publisher of BRIDGES and its sister publications, and has edited, authored and published a wide range of books, articles and opinion pieces in English, French and Spanish on economic governance, trade, sustainable development and conflict management. He has served or currently sits on advisory committees and the boards of a number of global policy initiatives, including as Member of the Board of Intellectual Property Watch (Geneva); the Operating Board of AccountAbility (London); the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Trade and WEF’s Working Group on Trade and Climate Change; The Pardee Center Task Force on Governance for a Green Economy (U of Boston); The Center for Global Development’s Global Trade Preference Working Group (Washington, DC); The Evian’s Group Brains Trust (IMD); the Global Governance Network of Globus et Locus (Milano); the Steering Committees of DfID’s Global Trade and Finance Architecture Initiative and of UN DESA’s Sustainable Development Knowledge Partnership (New York), a Patron of the Earth Focus Foundation (Geneva); in the recent past he served as Chair of the Global Action Network’s Council (Cambridge, MA); and member of the U.N. Secretary General Millennium Project Task Force on Trade; the WTO’s Director General NGO Advisory Group; and the MOFCOM/IISD China Sustainable Development and Global Markets Task Force. Mr. Meléndez-Ortiz, a graduate of Harvard University, has recently co-authored Envisioning a Sustainable Development Agenda for Trade and Environment (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) with A. Najam and M. Halle, and co-edited Rebuilding Global Trade: Proposals for A Fairer, More Sustainable Future(Global Economic Governance Programme at Oxford U. and ICTSD, 2009) with C. Deere; Agricultural Subsidies In The WTO Green Box: Ensuring Coherence With Sustainable Development Goals (Cambridge University Press, 2009) with C. Bellmann and J. Hepburn; Intellectual Property and Sustainable Development, Agendas in a Changing World(Edward Elgar Publishing, 2009) with P. Roffe; and, WTO Dispute Settlement: The Developing CountryExperience (Cambridge U. Press, forthcoming November 2010) with G. Shaffer. He holds Colombian and Belgian nationalities and is a resident of Switzerland where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

Ms. Roussell serves as Chief Executive Officer of the Global Solar Council. Previously she served as Head of Public Affairs for Europe, Africa & Latin America for Trina Solar, as well as Vice-President of the Board, Solar Power Europe, on the  E15 Experts Group on Clean Energy Trade Policy, and the International Energy Agency’s Energy Business Council.

Previously she was Head of Energy Utilities & Technology at the World Economic Forum, where she was a Global Leadership Fellow. She co-founded and served as Chief Operating Officer of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), a Washington, DC based non-profit association where she won the organizational honour of the Skoll Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurs. She began her career in solar strategy consulting, providing research & strategic advisory services to leading global solar corporations.

Ms Roussell holds a B.S. in Chinese Studies from Georgetown University, an MBA from IMD, and executive education with INSEAD, Wharton, and London Business School.  

She speaks English, German, Mandarin Chinese, French and Spanish.

Leah is a Research Officer working for the New Climate Economy and Climate and Energy Programme at ODI, working on green growth issues, with a focus on urbanisation, gender and fossil fuel subsidies.

Domaine de Penthes, Chemin de l'Impératrice 18, 1292 Pregny-Chambésy (Geneva), Switzerland




Date: Thursday, 24 May 2018 | 14:00-18:00

The event will be followed by a reception from 18:00-19:00.

Registration: We kindly request your advance registration