TRADE AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY STRUCTURED DISCUSSIONS
Ambassador Nadia Theodore (Canada) and Ambassador Ronald Saborío Soto (Costa Rica), the joint coordinators of the initiative, welcomed the progress made in the first year of work since the issuance of the December 2021 TESSD Ministerial Statement setting out the goals for the initiative. The meeting was the first to be chaired by the ambassadors following the departure of their predecessors, Ambassador Stephen De Boer (Canada) and Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta (Costa Rica), from Geneva.
“I am pleasantly surprised to see how the agenda has shifted and adapted to the reality and the crises the world is experiencing. I have been positively struck by learning how sustainability is discussed across the board and how the work that TESSD has achieved, building trust and bringing together such a diversity of views and interests, is moving ahead at a firm and steady pace,” Ambassador Saborío said. “We need to focus the work of 2023 and narrow the scope of action we’ve been working on to be able to find concrete answers to the questions we set out in the current work plan.”
“We continue to face a steady drumbeat of news on these issues which reminds us of the seriousness of the climate crisis which we are facing,” Ambassador Theodore said. “We believe that trade and the WTO can play an important role in advancing members' climate and environmental goals.”
“We can engage on barriers and bottlenecks which limit access to goods and services, consider how to enhance opportunities for more circular economies, and examine trade related climate measures and subsidies,” she added. “Within TESSD we will continue our goal of deepening discussions on areas of interest to our members.”
Facilitators for the four informal working groups on trade-related climate measures, environmental goods and services, circular economy-circularity, and subsidies reported on discussions in the working group meetings which had been held on 4-5 October and gave an outlook on possible future work.
Göksu Tülümen of Türkiye and Jean-Marie Meraldi of Switzerland, facilitators for the Working Group on Trade-Related Climate Measures, said that discussions at the last meeting focused on areas of interest such as carbon accounting standards and carbon pricing approaches, including their design, implications and effects. Regarding future work, some members expressed interest in mapping and discussing carbon measurement standards, and in exchanging views on the development of trade‑related climate measures.
Carlos Guevara of Ecuador and Helga Helland of Norway, facilitators for the Working Group on Environmental Goods and Services, said that discussions in their last meeting focused on climate change action through the lens of non-tariff measures (NTMs), as well as on environmental services. Members welcomed a staged approach for future work with a continued focus on the objective of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Discussions would continue building the evidence base regarding the renewable energy sector, specifically including through examining relevant NTMs and challenges facing developing countries.
Olivia Cook of Chile and Kazunari Morii of Japan, the facilitators for the Working Group on Circular Economy — Circularity, said that the October meeting focused on trade-related policy issues of the circular economy. Discussions had highlighted the role of trade in promoting circularity for, among other things, e-waste, value retention processes, waste disposal policies, and the need to consider the entire lifecycle of products as well as upstream processes. Members supported the idea of conducting a mapping exercise to identify relevant trade aspects of the circular economy and expressed interest in sector-specific discussions in areas such as renewable energy and electronics.
Sveinn K. Einarsson of Iceland and Mariana Vera of Uruguay, facilitators for the Working Group on Subsidies, said that discussions in their last meeting focused on transparency and methodologies to assess environmental impacts of subsidies. They also noted that the WTO Secretariat made a presentation on numbers and trends of subsidy notifications with an environmental objective included in the WTO's Environmental Database. Regarding future work, some members expressed interest in discussing the environmental effects of different types of subsidies and how to improve transparency and data availability.
The TESSD meeting also addressed preparations for the high-level stocktaking event scheduled for 2 December.
The event will review the progress made in discussions since the launch of the December 2021 TESSD Ministerial Statement and will signal priorities for the work going forward towards the 13th Ministerial Conference. Two documents will be issued at the event: a summary document capturing the range of discussions in 2022 as well as a co-convenors statement, which will take note of the work done to date and outline a path forward for 2023. A panel discussion of ambassadors will focus on climate change and development issues covered in TESSD discussions. Co-sponsors will also be invited to share their views on discussions and priorities in TESSD, with stakeholder groups also presenting their views and perspectives.
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