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As of late July 2023, the month of July 2023 had become the hottest month ever recorded in history. Heads of the governments of small island states have been outspoken about the existential risk their countries face due to rising sea level as a consequence of climate change. Wildfires are more frequent and more negatively impactful than ever before in different parts of the world. It is no wonder that sustainability has become a buzz word in the media, and policymakers all over the world are, more than ever, focusing on trying to achieve a sustainable future.

A sustainable global economy means providing good quality of life for everyone, keeping our planet clean and safe by tackling climate change, and having good-quality trading goods, such as agriculture, oil, and minerals. But how can the European Union (EU) and international law promote a highly sustainable global economy? How can EU countries and others ensure a sustainable global economy?

This article has four sections. Section 1 proposes a climate club for a sustainable economic future. It challenges the view that trade’s only impact on the environment is negative. It takes the unconventional view that the trading system goes beyond benefiting the economy and society in that it can also contribute to environmental protection, with a specific focus on decarbonization. This section proposes a paradigm shift in how we approach trade and develops a new theory based on the triple benefit of trade—economic growth, climate change mitigation, and enhancement of energy security. This section incorporates the current trend of bottom-up, rather than top-down, solutions to today’s global challenges. It investigates how trade agreements may be more effective legal instruments than environmental agreements for environmental-protection purposes, a possibility that is both counter-intuitive and surprising, and identifies opportunities to promote sustainable energy and environmental protection in future trade agreements.

Section 2 aims to explore the concept of a climate club linked to the international trade regime and proposes a strategy for its implementation the Group of Twenty (G20) framework. Section 2 examines the relevance of this proposal to Saudi Arabia, who is a member of the G20 and a participant in Mission Innovation. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest oil producers and exporters, facing both opportunities and challenges in transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Saudi Arabia has expressed its commitment to diversifying its economy, reducing its dependence on oil revenues, and contributing to global efforts to combat climate change. However, Saudi Arabia also faces resistance from some of its trading partners who may perceive its climate policies as a threat to their energy security or competitiveness. Therefore, Saudi Arabia can benefit from joining a climate club that can provide it with access to new markets, technologies, and financing for its green transition.

Section 3 analyzes the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI), launched by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman in March of 2021.The SGI is a comprehensive plan to combat climate change and promote sustainable development. The initiative aims to reduce carbon emissions, increase the use of renewable energy, and protect natural resources in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. While the initiative has been praised for its ambitious goals, it has also faced criticism and skepticism from various quarters, which will be analyzed in Section 3.

Section 4 explores the Saudi National Renewable Energy plan that is being implemented by the Saudi Government. This plan and the policy avenues mentioned in the previous paragraphs will be instrumental for a future EU trade law and policy in its bilateral relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council in the context of sustainability.

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