TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT
Canada and Fiji reported on two newly launched initiatives which are, respectively, the structured discussions on trade and environmental sustainability and the informal dialogue on plastics pollution and environmentally sustainable plastics trade.
The United Kingdom reported on the event it organized on plastic pollution with the Global Plastic Action Partnership, which focused on the role of private-public partnerships in utilizing trade to establish a circular economy for plastics. Another event, co-sponsored by France and the Netherlands, featured a discussion on global efforts to combat plastic pollution and ways that the WTO and civil society could contribute.
New Zealand, on behalf of the signatories to the 11th Ministerial Conference Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform Declaration, reported on its event on COVID-19 fiscal stimulus packages and the opportunity to incorporate renewable energies into economic recovery programmes. Costa Rica reported on its event about the country's experience with pursuing an environmentally friendly economic recovery in the aftermath of COVID-19. Barbados briefed members on its event co-hosted with Germany which featured interventions by Geneva youth about the future of trade and the environment. Barbados also reported on its session about using trade facilitation as a disaster response and recovery tool amid the rising incidence of climate events. Canada reported on its event co-hosted with France and the International Chamber of Commerce which looked at the intersection of trade, climate change and e-commerce.
The Chair of the Committee, Ambassador Chad Blackman of Barbados, thanked members for their active participation in Trade and Environment Week. He said he was confident the discussions provide an important impetus to the work of the CTE as well as to preparations for the 12th Ministerial Conference.
EU updates WTO members on trade-related aspects of the European Green Deal
During the CTE meeting, on 16 November, the European Union updated WTO members on its ongoing implementation of the European Green Deal, including its plans to establish a carbon border adjustment mechanism. Members sought assurances from the EU that such initiatives would comply with WTO rules. The EU presented the European Green Deal as decisive action needed to transform the EU's economy for a sustainable future while making sure that no one would be left behind.
On climate policy, the EU said it will work towards introducing a carbon border adjustment mechanism to manage the risk of “carbon leakage” in cases where climate action ambitions are not shared globally. Nine countries took the floor to comment on the carbon border adjustment mechanism and on the European Green Deal in general: Canada, Colombia, India, Norway, Paraguay, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States.
Canada informed members on recent discussions about environmental services that were held at the 21 October informal meeting of the Council for Trade in Services in Special Session. Canada highlighted the communication it circulated with co-sponsors Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, which drew attention to additional environmental services sectors where international trade liberalization could contribute to advancing sustainability objectives.
New Zealand provided an update on ongoing discussions regarding the “Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability” (ACCTS) in which Costa Rica, Fiji, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland also take part. The initiative, which aims to lower barriers to environmentally friendly goods and services, address fossil fuel subsidies and establish guidelines for ecolabels, recommenced negotiations in March and is now in its third round of talks. Parties remain committed to reach an agreement as swiftly as possible, New Zealand said, and remain open to including others that are ready to meet the agreement's obligations.
The United Kingdom provided an update on the upcoming 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will be held on 1-12 November 2021 in Glasgow. The UK said it aims to accelerate progress towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement at COP26.
Members also heard presentations on environmentally friendly coffee growing in Colombia, sustainable mechanized production systems for agriculture in Paraguay, and the manufacture of paper from bio-waste in Sri Lanka.
The WTO Secretariat briefed members on the latest information available on the WTO Environmental Database, focusing on the trade-related environment measures extracted from members' Trade Policy Reviews (TPRs) in 2019. The agriculture and energy sectors were found to have the highest number of environmental measures cited in these TPRs.
Observer organizations reported on other trade and environment developments. Some members, in response to agenda items on climate change, fossil fuel subsidies, and services negotiations, registered their position that the Committee was not the right forum for these discussions.
The next meeting of the Committee is tentatively scheduled for March 2021.