The Environment and Trade Hub joins the Discussion at WTO’s Committee on Trade and Environment

Geneva 1 November 2017 – On behalf of UN Environment, the Environment and Trade Hubrecently partook in the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) meeting at the WTO as an official observer. The CTE provides a forum for Member States to discuss issues at the intersection of environment and trade.

The Environment and Trade Hub informed the CTE about the upcoming United Nations Environment Assembly from the 4 to 6 December in Nairobi, highlighting the overarching theme of “Towards A Pollution Free Planet” and the high-level side event hosted by the Hub on “Unlocking Trade in Environmentally Sound Technologies to Tackle Air Pollution”. The Hub called for action and support from the trade community to the Assembly and related initiatives.

UN Environment also updated CTE members on the recent bilateral meeting between the Executive Director of UN Environment, Erik Solheim, and Director-General of the WTO, Roberto Azevêdo, in addition to recent activities related to environment and trade, including a workshop in Malaysia on “Unlocking Trade in Environmentally Sound Technologies: A Regional Perspective from ASEAN”, a training in China on Sustainable Textile Trade and Global Value Chains, a manual on Green Industry and Trade, and an upcoming workshop in South Africa on trade in organic and biodiversity based agriculture.

Chaired by Ambassador Zhanar Aitzhanova of Kazakhstan, the broader meeting focused on the reform of fossil fuel subsidies, the first Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Minamata Convention and national level good practices in managing harmful chemicals.

New Zealand provided the committee with an overview of the current status of fossil fuel subsidies, where increased efforts to promote reform and to reach an international agreement on abolishing those subsidies was stressed. The aim to phase out harmful fossil fuel subsidies is explicitly enshrined in Sustainable Development Goal 12.C and is foreseen to be discussed at the WTO’s Eleventh Ministerial Conference which will take place from 10 to 13 December 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nonetheless it remains uncertain whether the Member States will reach an agreement. Moreover, as a follow-up to New Zealand’s intervention at the previous CTE meeting in June 2017, it provided the Member States with more information on the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA), a platform with the aim of bringing countries together to decouple agricultural production from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Subsequently, the BRS Conventions Secretariat presented the 2017 Conference of the Parties (COP) and the Minamata Convention.1 The BRS Conventions’ measures to protect human health and the environment against the negative impacts of hazardous chemicals and wastes also include trade related measures, which set conditions and procedures to be followed for the import and export of the covered hazardous chemicals and wastes. The aim of these measures is to ensure that importing countries are not confronted with hazardous chemicals and wastes that they do not wish to receive (e.g. because they are unable to manage them in an environmentally sound manner). In this context, Peru presented its best practices for the management of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which include building partnerships and strategic alliances with the concerned industry and the provision of training and technical assistance.

Canada then presented its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), that was submitted to the UNFCCC on 11 May this year. The NDC reflects Canada’s ambitious commitment towards reaching the Paris Agreement and includes a goal to reduce GHG emissions to below 30% of 2005 levels by 2030.

Australia provided an update on the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) negotiations, underlining the importance of a successful conclusion. The EGA would provide mutual benefits and open yet another channel through which trade could contribute to the mitigation of climate change. A number of member states stressed the need to successfully negotiate the EGA in a timely manner.

Finally, the WTO Secretariat updated the committee on recent development in the “Matrix on Trade-related Measures Pursuant to Selected Multilateral Environmental Agreements” and the Environmental Database. The database contains all environment-related notifications submitted by WTO members as well as environmental measures and policies mentioned in the Trade Policy Reviews of WTO members. Both are publicly available reference documents which assist policy makers and other stakeholders in gaining an overview of trade-related measures related to environmental agreements and environmental agreements related to trade.

About the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment

Launched in 1994, the CTE is a direct outcome of the Marrakesh Ministerial Decision on Trade and Environment. Open to all WTO members, the CTE has contributed to identifying and understanding the relationship between trade and the environment in order to promote sustainable development. The committee aims to make appropriate recommendations on whether any modifications of the provisions of the multilateral trading system are required, compatible with its open, equitable and non-discriminatory nature.

As an official observer, UN Environment has been actively engaging with the Committee and its members on environment related trade rules and promoting the mutual supportiveness of trade and environmental policies.

Information on UN Environment’s participation in previous CTE meetings can be found here.