Ensuring a Greener Recovery Through Trade



UN Conference on Trade and Development

Leading figures convene at the UN Trade Forum 2021 to explore how to ensure a COVID-19 economic recovery that protects the planet and promotes inclusive development.

Although trade is a source of income, jobs, and opportunities, it generates 8 billion tons of climate-heating carbon emissions every year.

In 2020, global CO2 emissions fell by 5.8% as measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic locked down many populations and economic sectors. But a steep uptick is expected as global trade rebounds from the crisis.

The second edition of the United Nations Trade Forum will shine a light on the actions needed for an inclusive and green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The event, set to take place online on 14 and 15 June, will bring together top trade experts, ministers, thought leaders and international organizations to explore the role of trade policy in forging sustainable solutions that benefit people more equally.

The forum is a key stepping stone towards UNCTAD’s 15th quadrennial ministerial conference to be held online from 3 to 7 October, hosted by Barbados.

“The COVID-19 pandemic gave the climate a break, but it will only be an exception if we don’t take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation, even as we pursue economic recovery and prosperity,” said UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General Isabelle Durant.

She added: “Carbon emissions are rapidly rising again as economies recover. We must redouble our efforts to limit the emissions. Trade policy is one of the tools we have to avoid a spiral that threatens the environment and our existence.”.

Why trade policy matters

The pandemic has highlighted trade’s pivotal role in the global provision of goods and services. Governments have used trade policy to positively respond to the coronavirus crisis, which also exposed many fault lines and exacerbated pre-existing vulnerability and inequality.

While trade is a source of economic development, it generates a quarter of global CO2 emissions. Innovative measures are needed to increase synergies between trade policy and climate action.

But today’s trading system may not provide a framework for effective implementation of such measures for the benefit of the world in general and of developing countries in particular, Ms. Durant said.

Bringing key players to the table

The UN Trade Forum will feature top-level speakers from around the world who will explore how the multilateral trading system can work for a lasting green and inclusive recovery.

Among the event’s high-level speakers are the World Trade Organization head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Rebeca Grynspan, head of the Ibero-American General Secretariat.

Others include Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission executive vice president and European Union commissioner for trade; Amani Abou-Zeid, the African Union’s infrastructure and energy commissioner; and Piyush Goyal, India’s minister of commerce and industry.

The forum will conclude with the 17th edition of UNCTAD’s prestigious Prebisch Lecture to be delivered by Nobel laureate Esther Duflo on 15 June.

Trade needs a green streak

The forum will explore how to drive the COVID-19 crisis recovery with a coherent trade policy mix that protects the planet and ensures more inclusive development.

The premise of the forum is that while trade must be part of the climate solution, trade policy itself needs a green streak. The programme is structured as a journey that moves from reflection to action.

The high-level panel will address how to reduce trade tensions and strengthen multilateralism to avoid reverting to the pre-crisis status quo.

Two other sessions of the forum will focus on what can be done on the green side of trade policy and tactics to build an inclusive world through better trade.

They will address how trade policies and rules can better support green development, how each country can contribute to this and how trade can reduce rather than exacerbate inequality in society.

The UN Trade Forum fosters dialogue on how trade can contribute to a more prosperous, inclusive and sustainable world. The 2019 edition focused on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals.

To read more of this commentary from the UNCTAD, please click here.