According to recent theoretical developments, there are three key channels through which trade affects the environment. The first is via its effect on the scale of economic activity, the second is via a composition effect and the third is via a technical effect. This paper argues that, in addition to these traditional factors, the geography of international trade flows does matter. Since, transport activity is also a source of pollution, trading with close countries does not have the same implications as trading with distant ones. However, this geographical distance effect can be offset by a transport sector effect i.e. the use of different modes, techniques and scale of transport. Indeed, when distances increase, it is expected that transport companies use less energy-intensive modes of transport. These two opposite effects are tested for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in a set of 149 countries as well as for different economic groups over the period 1986 to 2003. The main findings show a U-shaped relation between distance and CO2 emissions: the distance (transport sector) effect dominates long (short) distance travel. This paper underlines the possible high costs in terms of CO2 emissions of globalized trade as opposed to regionalized trade flows.
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