Speakers at the event discussed how trade can help bring climate technology solutions to where they are needed most and thereby help countries around the world achieve sustainable development.
“It is hugely important that the trade community engages with climate scientists and policy makers on what needs to be done,” Professor Joanna Haigh, Grantham Institute co-director, said in her keynote address.
Prof. Haigh discussed the rise in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, its link to global warming, and the damages rising temperatures could wreak in the future. Actions meant to help populations merely adapt to climate change are not enough nor are commitments countries have made in the form of nationally determined contributions in the Paris Agreement for climate action, Prof. Haigh said. (Presentation)
Instead, more steps need to be taken to cut carbon emissions, she said.
A panel of speakers presented clean energy technology solutions as well as the policy barriers affecting their widespread use.
Opening the panel discussion, WTO Trade and Environment Division Director Aik Hoe Lim noted how tariffs and non-tariff barriers such as divergent product standards impact the cost-efficient deployment of these technologies as well as the participation of small and medium enterprises. He also drew attention to the linkage between investments and services, and how services trade restrictions can pose challenges to the deployment of clean energy technologies.
Grantham Institute project manager Laila Read discussed the growing potential and competitiveness of solar, wind and energy storage technologies, and the benefits and barriers to carbon capture and storage. Predictable, long-term policy frameworks would support further deployment. Other actions that will drive rollout include making assembly chains more competitive, achieving economies of scale, and policies to facilitate connections to existing power grids. (Presentation)
Stefaan Simons, the Dean of the College of Engineering, Design & Physical Sciences at Brunel University, called on participants to consider removing restrictions that hinder the trade and use of resource-efficient energy systems including recycled goods. (Presentation)
Assaad Razzouk, Group Chief Executive of Sindicatum Sustainable Resources, injected a private sector view into the discussion. Clean energy solutions, he said, face difficulties in the form of competition posed by subsidized fossil fuels as well as “bureaucratic tangles” that hamper investment.
As for intellectual property considerations that could affect developing countries' access to clean energy technologies, WTO IP Counsellor Jayashree Watal noted that several developing countries are among the main owners and users of patented clean energy technologies, and that the Paris Agreement encourages collaborative approaches with developed countries in the technology area. (Presentation)
Pakistan Ambassador Syed Tauqir Shah highlighted the situation of developing countries, stating that clean energy approaches must also take into consideration the energy consumption needs of poorer countries and their growth and development objectives. (Presentation)
“We have to align trade and climate agreements so trade becomes a driver for low-carbon growth, rather than carbon becoming a cause of trade conflicts,” he said. “Our approach to the trade and climate change issue should not blunt the competitiveness of developing countries,” he added. He concluded with a call for collaboration, saying: “Multilateral institutions have to join forces to support collective efforts to address climate change.”
Mr Lim, closing the event, said: “What we heard today is that trade is already working to deploy clean energy technologies. However, we also heard that trade policy, in some cases, can do more.”
Professor Joanna Haigh
Co-Director of Grantham Institute, Imperial College London
Dr. Laila Read
Dr. Syed Tauqir Shah
Ambassador of Pakistan
Professor Stefaan Simons
Brunel University, London
WTO Intellectual Property Division
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