Remove trade barriers to fight climate crisis, says WTO chief | The world trade organization

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RRemoving trade barriers around the world would help tackle the climate crisis, enable a “just transition” away from fossil fuels and make developing countries more resilient to the impacts of global warming, said the head of the World Organization. trade.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who took over as CEO of the Global Observatory last March, said: “Trade is part of the solution, not the problem… We need a global effort to protect the chains of supply and infrastructure to the most vulnerable economies or risk wiping out hard-won economic progress and development.

She said the Guardian Trade would be essential in helping developing countries cope with the effects of extreme weather conditions, which are already being felt. “We must put in place trade policies to cushion the negative impacts of climate change, to ensure food security in the face of climate threats [and] provide access to adaptation technologies, ”she said.

Developing countries have long been wary of international trade negotiations, fearing that rich countries will use them to protect their own economies while allowing them to export goods to poor countries and, in some cases, criticizing the WTO for his bias in favor of the rich. Many have also been skeptical of including climate issues and fear that the “environmental” standards that some developed countries insist on could be used as a cover to raise barriers to cheap imports from the developing world. Environmental activists have also claimed that the WTO has encouraged high carbon trading.

Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister and World Bank economist, who is the first African and the first woman to lead the WTO, has decided to reassure skeptics. “Trade helps build resilience. People don’t recognize it but do [is] that in times of great difficulty, trade can help get services and goods to where they are needed. Food for example: Trade helps move food from one area that is not affected by drought or flooding to another.

Environmental rules could be compatible with trade, she said: “WTO rules do not prevent people from adopting environmental standards. [but] if you design your environmental policies, you must do so transparently and you do not discriminate against similar products.

Last week, the WTO launched an initiative to mainstream environmental concerns into trade, with roadmaps for reforming fossil fuel subsidies, promoting sustainability in international trade and controlling plastic pollution.

Okonjo-Iweala believes that following the Cop26 summit, trade will become an essential tool to achieve drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, thus helping to shift the world economy to a low-emission basis. of carbon. She said: “What is clear is that the climate negotiations have moved from technical discussions to actual implementation … This makes the role of trade and trade policy even more urgent in ensuring a green transition. fair and efficient for all. “

Agreements were signed in Glasgow last month to reduce the world’s methane, protect forests and institute a global carbon emissions trading scheme under the 2015 Paris Agreement, for which , she said, the WTO could help.

But she said developing countries also need help from the rich world, especially in the form of climate finance, which comes from public and private sources in the rich world to help poor countries reduce their emissions and do so. facing the effects of extreme weather conditions. Rich countries have so far failed to deliver the $ 100 billion in climate finance pledged to developing countries each year from 2020, although they are likely to meet the target by 2023 .

Okonjo-Iweala said that was not enough: “If you can raise $ 26 billion [in response to Covid-19], this goes beyond the belief on the part of developing countries that you cannot raise $ 100 billion [for climate finance]. This is what causes a huge trust deficit.

The UK is also expected to reinstate its recent cuts in overseas aid, she added. “We all want the UK back to 0.7% [of GDP going to overseas aid, the previous target which was slashed to 0.5% by the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak]. He has been a leader in overseas aid and should continue to do so. So we don’t want to see this reduction.

Over the next year, countries will be invited to reconsider their national emission reduction targets and how to achieve them, ahead of the next United Nations climate meeting, Cop27 in Egypt in November. Okonjo-Iweala said: “We have seen some promising results from Cop26, but I wouldn’t be the only one to say that the world is not yet on track to give the most vulnerable countries and communities a chance. to fight against climate change. The WTO has a vital role to play in harnessing trade as a tool to move us closer to climate goals.


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