UN Trade Forum convenes to tackle climate emergency
04 September 2019 | Adaptation
The climate crisis will be far-reaching for all people and nations, but small island development states are at the forefront of its impacts. It also stands to wipe out trade gains of these vulnerable islands if not addressed now.
This reality has brought the world’s island nations, the trade community, policy-makers, and the United Nations’ top agencies together for the first-ever United Nations Trade Forum slated for 9 to 13 September.
Leaders of the small island developing states of Barbados, Saint Lucia and Vanuatu, ministers, senior government officials and experts will affirm global trade policy’s integral role in fighting the climate crisis at forum at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The insights and inputs will fed into the much anticipated United Nations Climate Action Summit later this month, on 23 September at the organisation’s headquarters in New York.
Forum participants will explore the linkages between trade, climate change, oceans economy and biodiversity, and exchange innovative ideas and approaches on how global trade and related policies may enable and support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Tackling the climate crisis brings many added benefits, such as economic diversification, jobs and innovation, which form the base for shared prosperity and financial stability,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said. “Trade has an important role to play in leveraging those co-benefits.”
“Trade can be part of the solution to the climate crisis,” he added.
Climate changes, and so does trade
As the climate changes, the trade regime is also evolving. Purely commercial considerations are now only part of the trade policy equation, with much more being placed on sustainable development.
Articulating a positive agenda on climate and trade signals an important departure from the past two decades of treating trade as a taboo subject in climate policy.
“The Paris Agreement does not contain any references to trade, but in a sense it’s the most important trade agreement,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, director of UNCTAD's trade and commodities division.
Once countries’ commitments under the landmark agreement start playing out in trade patterns around the world, they will bring about big changes – positive and negative, intended and unintended – for trading partners.
Ms. Coke-Hamilton said forward-looking approaches are required to explore any opportunities for including trade elements in countries’ climate commitments.
The Paris Agreement opens the prospects for a collective transformation, not just for individual economies, but for the global economy as well.
This transformation will require a massive reallocation of resources at the international level. At the domestic level, it will necessitate structural changes, which are bound to raise equity and distributional concerns that have been central to UNCTAD's work for decades.
The forum will explore how to change the approach from one of allocating or shifting burdens among countries through trade-restrictive measures, to figuring out ways in which trade could help all countries, developing and developed, big and small, share the benefits of transforming their economies.
Delegates will deliberate on how to accelerate action on the means of implementation – finance, technology and capacity-building – and the role of trade as an enabling factor in meeting this need and leveraging the various co-benefits of tackling the climate emergency.