Trade and climate change
Climate change is a global environmental challenge that calls for collective solutions, multilateral cooperation and coherent action in line with the international community's wider ambitions for economic growth and sustainable development. Trade and trade policy can and must be a part of the policy "toolbox" to achieve shared climate goals at the depth and speed required by the climate emergency. Trade plays a crucial role in the transition to a global low-carbon economy and a greener, more sustainable society.
WTO meetings at which climate change has been raised:
- 2 December 2022, TESSD High-level Stocktaking Event — Members take stock of sustainability discussions, signal priorities for concrete action
- 31 March 2022, TESSD meeting — Members launch discussions under trade and environmental sustainability work plan for 2022
- 30-31 March 2022, Committee on Market Access — Members welcome COVID-19 trade-related measures report, agree on future experience sharing
- 8-11 March 2022, TBT Committee, Thematic session on accreditation and digital solutions — Standards committee advances transparency, discusses accreditation and digital issues
- 2 February 2022, CTE meeting — Members note work in three environment initiatives and discuss anti-deforestation efforts
- 5 November 2021, SPS Committee meeting — Members discuss MC12 SPS Declaration, agree on schedule for thematic work in 2022
- 2-4 and 9 June 2021, TBT Committee, 9th Triennial Review — Members discuss COVID-19, climate change, digital issues at review of standards agreement
Role of the WTO
Climate change can negatively impact trade by disrupting distribution and supply chains and raising trade costs. The WTO, as the cornerstone of the multilateral rules-based global trading system, plays a key part in supporting climate action. It provides a framework of disciplines to facilitate global trade and serves as a forum to negotiate further trade openness and to discuss trade concerns. The WTO rules require members to be transparent when adopting new measures impacting trade with legitimate policy objectives, such as combatting climate change. The WTO seeks to ensure that such measures are coherent and fit-for-purpose and do not create unjustifiable discrimination.
The issue of climate change, per se, is not found expressly in the WTO agreements. However, the goals of sustainable development and environmental protection are central to the WTO, as captured in the preamble to its founding charter, the Marrakesh Agreement. The WTO gives members the opportunity to hold open and informed dialogue on trade and climate change, to discuss related measures and to share knowledge and experiences. Trade and climate change policies can contribute towards climate action while at the same time ensuring opportunities for economic growth and diversification.
Staff information notes
- Overview of trade policies adopted to address climate change
- Climate change in Regional Trade Agreements
- The resilience of trade in the face of increasingly frequent natural disasters
- The carbon content of international trade
- Africa under a changing climate: the role of trade in building resilient adaptation in agriculture
- What yardstick for net-zero? How WTO TBT disciplines can contribute to effective policies on carbon emission standards and climate change mitigation
- Decarbonization standards and the iron and steel sector: how can the WTO support greater coherence?
- Leveraging trade in environmental goods and services to tackle climate change
- Climate Change Adaptation and Trade
WTO members' notified measures on climate actionSource: WTO's Environmental Database. To access it, please click here.
WTO members' submissions on climate change
Committee or group
TESSD — Proposal on Contributions to Achieving Global Carbon Neutrality at the WTO
TESSD — Communication on topics of interest
TESSD — Communication on priorities for discussion
TESSD — Communication on possible issues/priorities
TESSD — Proposal for a fossil fuel subsidies reform discussion
Useful links and resources
Further information on WTO, trade and climate change
The well-being of people is dependent upon the well-being of our planet, and trade can play an important role here (ů) By connecting people and markets, trade helps lower costs and disseminate new environmental technologies. Trade can make resource use more efficient, reducing the strain on our ecosystems. New trade rules can help our economies become greener, cleaner, more prosperous, and more inclusive.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WTO Director-General
5 June 2021