Nature | 20 January 2022
Regional trade agreement burdens global carbon emissions mitigation
by Kailan Tian, Yu Zhang, Yuze Li, Xi Ming, Shangrong Jiang, Hongbo Duan, Cuihong Yang & Shouyang Wang
Regional trade agreements (RTAs) have been widely adopted to facilitate international trade and cross-border investment and promote economic development. However, ex ante measurements of the environmental effects of RTAs to date have not been well conducted. Here, we estimate the CO2 emissions burdens of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) after evaluating its economic effects. We find that trade among RCEP member countries will increase significantly and economic output will expand with the reduction of regional tariffs. However, the results show that complete tariff elimination among RCEP members would increase the yearly global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion by about 3.1%, doubling the annual average growth rate of global CO2 emissions in the last decade. The emissions in some developing members will surge. In the longer run, the burdens can be lessened to some extent by the technological spillover effects of deeper trade liberalization. We stress that technological advancement and more effective climate policies are urgently required to avoid undermining international efforts to reduce global emissions.