“We are mindful of the current context and looming energy crisis,” Ambassador Clare Kelly of New Zealand, the coordinator of the initiative, said at the meeting which served as a stocktaking of relevant international efforts and an opportunity for co-sponsors to present their priorities and suggestions for future work. “We recognise the difficult months ahead but cannot lose sight of our shared objectives and ambition in the longer term. Rising fossil fuel prices have served to reinforce the need to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels toward clean, green energy systems,” Ambassador Kelly said.

Forty-seven WTO members are co-sponsors of the FFSR initiative which, according to the group's MC12 ministerial statement, seeks “the rationalization and phase out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption along a clear timeline.” In line with the FFSR work plan for 2022-2023, the group intends to hold at least three meetings, culminating in the discussion of next steps for further work at the WTO by MC13. The co-sponsors of the FFSR initiative as of 3 October are: Albania; Chile; Costa Rica; the European Union (and 27 member states); Fiji; Iceland; Liechtenstein; Moldova, Republic of; Montenegro; New Zealand; North Macedonia; Norway; Panama; Paraguay, Samoa; Switzerland; Tonga; United Kingdom; Uruguay; and Vanuatu.

A number of members expressed interest at the meeting in further exploring what might be  achieved to increase the transparency of fossil fuel subsidy programmes, with many noting that this will be a first vital step towards closing information gaps and achieving reforms. Members recognized opportunities to build on efforts by other international organizations involving voluntary reporting, experience sharing, and peer reviews. Closer collaboration in using existing WTO mechanisms such as Trade Policy Reviews and discussions in WTO committees was also suggested.

Several members echoed the coordinator's call for steadfast action on fossil fuel subsidy reform in the face of rising energy prices, noting that the global crisis makes more urgent the case for clean energy. Governments should ensure that fossil fuel subsidy programmes taken in response to the energy crisis should be temporary and quickly unwound, they said.

Members also heard presentations from representatives of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the WTO Secretariat on the landscape of fossil fuel subsidies and international efforts related to the issue. Other stakeholders, namely representatives of the Quaker United Nations Office, World Economic Forum, and the Forum on Trade, Environment and SDGs (TESS), also provided suggestions for work moving forward.

Ambassador Kelly noted that it was fitting that the meeting was taking place immediately following last week's Public Forum, which was convened under the theme of ‘Ambition to Action.’ “This initiative aims to shift ambition into action, recognising the role the WTO can play in achieving ambitious and effective multilateral disciplines as well as to support cosponsors’own domestic reform efforts,” Ambassador Kelly said.

The next meeting, which will focus on development and social issues associated to FFSR, will be held in December or early 2023.




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