Trade can and must make a contribution to a comprehensive climate action agenda, Director-General of World Trade Organisation Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala declared in her engagements with world leaders and stakeholders at the United Nations COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
Highlighting the need for ambitious yet fair commitments that ensure a green transition that is just and inclusive to all economies, Okonjo-Iweala called for climate finance for Africa because the continent contributes the least to carbon emissions but suffers the most.
The Director-General highlighted trade and the WTO’s role in a wide breadth of approaches to climate action in her panels and bilateral meetings, covering carbon emission reductions, the conservation of forests as critical carbon sinks, climate adaptation, and finance.
On carbon reduction and pricing, she championed a coordinated approach at the high-level event organized by Canada and the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, saying: “Let’s move towards a global carbon price. We have a great deal of fragmentation and we are hearing increasingly from businesses that they are finding regulations difficult to navigate and sometimes it results in higher prices for consumers and others. We also have members who are afraid this measure is somehow disguised protectionism which will prevent them from selling products abroad. Their issues need to be respected as we develop these systems.”
“The WTO provides a forum where we can initiate this dialogue and involve developing and least-developed countries in the conversation. Leaders should task the International Monetary Fund, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, World Bank and the WTO to work together and come up with a global approach,” she said.
Halting deforestation and establishing sustainable markets for agriculture must also be part of the comprehensive trade and climate agenda, she said at a session of the World Leaders Summit on Forests and Land Use, organized by the United Kingdom, host of COP26, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. WTO members have already notified an increasing number of policies relating to forestry management (514 measures from 2009 to 2019) as well as sustainable agriculture management (over 1,200 measures).
However, more action is needed, such as reforming subsidies that create perverse incentives for market actors to deplete natural resources, the Director-General said.
At the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Summit, moreover, the Director-General said: “Adaptation for Africa must be a priority for the international community. This region contributes the least to emissions but suffers the most. Climate finance for Africa to meet adaptation costs must be ramped up.”
“We also need to put in place trade policies to cushion against and adapt to the negative impacts of climate change. Trade is part of the solution,” she said, noting the need for trade to ensure food security in the face of climate threats, provide access to adaptation technologies, and create synergies in Aid for Trade and climate finance.
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