The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) considered the trade-related aspects of the European Green Deal, and heard several developing countries’ presentations on their national environmental initiatives. The Committee also received updates on the ongoing preparations for the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP 26), members’ environmental initiatives, and the ongoing negotiations for an Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS).
The CTE convened a formal meeting on 30 March 2021.
The EU updated members on its proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) and other trade-related aspects of the European Green Deal. The mechanism aims to address the risk of “carbon leakage,” the EU explained, where companies would shift production to countries with lower carbon costs or import products from these jurisdictions. The mechanism would also consider other countries’ efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The EU indicated that the process of adopting a decision on the CBAM is expected to start in June 2021, following public consultations and impact assessments, with a view to be implemented by 2023.
Several members called for “continued transparency” from the EU on the CBAM’s design. Others stressed the need to consider different levels of development and minimize trade distortions.
The EU also reported on its initiatives on forest conservation and “farm to fork” strategy, as well as its new trade strategy, which “puts sustainability at the heart of trade policy.”
Canada presented on discussions from a 4 March webinar it held on the issues related to border carbon adjustment (BCA), and said international cooperation is fundamental to make sure such measures can meet the Paris Agreement’s climate targets while ensuring a fair environment for business at the same time.
Several developing countries reported on their efforts to implement national environmental measures. The Central African Republic presented on its experiences in addressing plastics pollution. Maldives discussed initiatives to promote environmentally friendly products and a green economy. Pakistan presented the example of a tire and footwear manufacturing and exporting company, which became more sustainable by using solar power.
The CTE heard updates on preparations for COP 26, currently planned for November in Glasgow, the UK. The Committee also received updates on members’ environmental initiatives that “aim to make a mark” at the WTO’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12), scheduled to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, at the end of 2021.
Canada reported on efforts by WTO members involved in the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) to develop a work plan to guide exchanges ahead of MC12. Canada described MC12 as the “logical target” for the group to articulate the vision of the structured discussions and deliver a ministerial statement.
Morocco reported on the 29 March meeting of the Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade – a group of WTO members for which it serves as a coordinator. The meeting discussed the role of trade and the WTO in tackling plastic pollution, with many members viewing MC12 as a “new opportunity for the group to demonstrate progress and share a roadmap for WTO work.”
New Zealand outlined plans for a joint ministerial statement at MC12 on fossil fuel subsidy reform, and updated members on the ongoing ACCTS talks, the fourth round of which concluded recently. Parties “continue to make steady progress,” New Zealand reported.
Members also heard:
- updates on the latest developments in Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) dealing with chemicals and waste;
- reports on events that members held back-to-back with the CTE meeting; and
- a briefing on the latest information available on the WTO Environmental Database.
The Committee elected its new chair, Manuel A.J. Teehankee, Ambassador of the Philippines to the WTO. Teehankee replaces the outgoing chair, Ambassador Chad Blackman of Barbados. [WTO Press Release]