TRADE AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY STRUCTURED DISCUSSIONS
Participants addressed the following themes as set out in the work plan — trade-related climate measures and policies; challenges and opportunities for sustainable trade; environmental goods and services; the circular economy and circularity; and subsidies.
Stakeholders from international organizations, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the business community were invited to contribute to the discussions in order to share their technical expertise and experiences.
“The members assembled in this room believe that trade and trade policy can support the achievement of environmental and climate goals, and that the WTO has a role to play, both as a venue for discussion and for joint action,” Canadian Ambassador Stephen De Boer, co-convenor of the TESSD, said at the start of the meeting.
Under the theme of trade-related climate measures, participants were provided with an overview from the WTO Secretariat on different types of trade-related climate measures and information included in the WTO's Environmental Database. More than 4,600 trade-related climate measures were notified to the WTO between 2009 and 2020, with the large majority relating to alternative and renewable energy, and energy conservation and efficiency.
Participants shared their impressions and experiences as to how they have adopted and implemented trade-related climate measures domestically.
Participants were also briefed by the Secretariat regarding an information exchange among research staff of the WTO and other international organizations (IMF, OECD, UNCTAD and World Bank) on their respective ongoing analytical work regarding trade and climate change modelling, with a view to fostering technical coordination and pointing to areas of possible cooperation.
In regards to challenges and opportunities for sustainable trade, the ODI provided highlights of the Enhanced Integrated Framework-supported project “Aligning climate and trade policy for LDCs and graduates” that it had implemented in partnership with the International Institute for Environment and Development.
The Secretariat presented to participants a factual note summarizing past experiences and current efforts in the promotion and facilitation of environmental goods and services as well as selected research regarding potential benefits and challenges of trade in environmental goods and services. Members shared their experiences and indicated their priorities for work in this area.
Co-convenor Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta of Costa Rica said the Secretariat note “represents an important effort to visualize the task ahead for the working group, putting into perspective past experiences and efforts.” She said she hoped it would energize the participation of all WTO members in the work.
Members also shared their experiences on national efforts to promote a circular economy and circularity, including regarding opportunities and challenges linked to trade and trade policy, as well as their views on scope and priorities for work in this area.
The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) provided participants with a background presentation on fossil fuel subsidies, with an overview of the different types of subsidies provided, measurement, impacts and reform efforts. The IISD representative noted different estimates by various international organizations on the amount of fossil fuel subsidies being provided but said that the trend towards declining subsidies in past years is likely to be reversed with the recent sharp rise in oil prices.
Members exchanged views on the scope and priorities for work on the issue of subsidies. The discussion will be continued on 11 April with a session on agricultural subsidies.
At the start of the meeting, many members took the floor to express their strong opposition to the invasion of Ukraine. The Russian delegate responded by saying that the WTO was not the proper venue for a discussion of this nature.
According to the work plan, additional formal TESSD meetings are tentatively scheduled to take place on 19-20 July and 26-27 October. In addition, informal working group meetings are tentatively scheduled for 17-18 May and 27-28 September to hold more in-depth discussions and advance work on the themes of trade‑related climate measures, environmental goods and services, circular economy/circularity and subsidies.
The 2022 work will culminate with a high-level stocktaking event with a tentative date of 1-2 December to take note of the progress achieved.
The TESSD discussions were launched in November 2020 with the aim of complementing the existing work of the WTO's Committee on Trade and Environment and other relevant WTO committees and bodies. In December 2021, 71 members co-sponsored a TESSD Ministerial Statement which sets out future work for the initiative in areas such as trade and climate change, trade in environmental goods and services, circular economy, sustainable supply chains, capacity building and technical assistance for sustainable trade, and subsidies. The initiative seeks to promote transparency and information sharing, and to work towards deliverables for environmental sustainability in these areas.