At the meeting, a representative of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gave a presentation on the Paris Agreement and the status of climate change discussions. Singapore, Mexico, and China discussed their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) they had submitted to the UNFCCC. Chinese Taipei, meanwhile, presented its experience with renewable energy policy.
New Zealand provided an update on some governments’ efforts to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and, with Norway, called for more WTO members to join in on stepping up reforms to do away with inefficient subsidies as part of climate change mitigation. New Zealand said there was value in sharing information and working towards coherence with other international organizations and their policies.
Some members supported action to address wasteful fossil fuel subsidies and others added that there was merit in continuing discussions on the issue. Several members, however, considered that initiatives on fossil fuel subsidy reform were being conducted in the context of the G20 and other organizations and had no relation to the WTO, while others said the reduction of subsidies should also take into account the needs of developing countries to address poverty.
Citing the need for coherent trade and climate policies, three delegations—Korea, Canada, and Costa Rica— presented a proposal to deepen the understanding of the relationship between these two areas. They proposed reviewing what has been discussed at the WTO on issues related to trade and climate change. To this end, they suggested an exchange of views with experts at the committee’s regular sessions. The proposal further calls on members to consider how to continue such discussions in the committee and in other WTO bodies.
Some members backed the proposal while several asked for further clarification, including through an informal meeting, and indicated the importance of addressing other environmental issues besides climate change, such as the treatment of chemical waste. Several members further noted that work on the implementation of the Paris Agreement is still in its early stages, while some reiterated that the work must recognize the need for differentiated treatment for developing countries.
Environmental provisions in regional trade agreements
The European Union and New Zealand shared their respective experiences with environmental provisions in regional trade agreements (RTAs). The EU recognized the need to ensure that sustainable development is integrated in their trade agreements. The EU said it partly accomplished this by making reference to existing international agreements and including provisions upholding each side’s right to regulate for environmental protection provided that parties complied with their international commitments. The EU RTAs also identify and facilitate trade and investment practices that contribute to enhanced environmental protection, the EU said. Besides these, best practices in policy making such as consultation, evaluation, and review as well as dispute settlement mechanisms are also included in the RTAs.
New Zealand, for its part, said their experience with implementing environmental provisions in RTAs shows that it is best to tailor approaches to each trade partner. Bespoke cooperation activities help ensure environmental objectives are met, New Zealand said.
Trade in environmental goods
Australia provided an update on the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) being negotiated among 17 participants.
The current 17 EGA participants are Australia; Canada; China; Costa Rica; the European Union (representing 28 members); Hong Kong, China; Iceland; Israel; Japan; Korea; New Zealand; Norway; Singapore; Switzerland; Chinese Taipei; Turkey; and the United States.
Australia said significant progress has been made since the last update was provided to the committee in October 2015. EGA participants are now focusing on a well-developed list of around 350 tariff lines, Australia added. The 14th negotiating round held in June was comprised of positive and constructive discussions where the participants reaffirmed their commitment to concluding an ambitious EGA in a timely manner, Australia said. Discussions, it added, are continuing on how to make the EGA a living agreement that will expand to cover more goods, services, and non-tariff barriers. The next round of talks will be held on 25-29 July, Australia said.
Bolivia, for its part, said initiatives like this undermine multilateral efforts.
A representative from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) presented a paper which found that stringent but well-designed environmental policies in a country tend to encourage the development and exports of environmentally-friendly goods and services.
Members also heard at the meeting Canada’s experience with governance and regulation of forests and forest products. Ecuador shared the country’s experience with organic agricultural certification for small and medium-sized enterprises. Several other international organizations made presentations: the International Tropical Timber Organization, the UN Commission on Trade and Development and the UN Environment Programme.
The next committee meeting will take place in the autumn.