Governance at trade and environment nexus

Build capacity for countries to pursue environmental management and sustainable development through trade and investment agreements and global economic and environmental governance mechanisms.

Sustainability Toolkit for Trade Negotiators

Recent years have witnessed a boom of regional trade and investment agreements (RTIAs). A growing number of them have environmental elements, which provide important implications for the nexus of environment and trade policy at the governance level. This project helps countries better understand, draft and negotiate provisions in RTIAs by providing a Toolkit with principles, a checklist for negotiators, as well as an analysis of examples and best practices for guiding RTIA negotiations. In the longer term, this work aims to encourage RTIAs to increasingly facilitate countries' mutual pursuit of environmental and social priorities such as combatting climate change, enhancing resource efficiency, and ensuring social inclusiveness.

The project was implemented in close collaboration with IISD.

Access the online Toolkit here.

Green Industrial Policy & Trade: A Tool-box

This tool-box guides policymakers and green economy professionals on policy options at the intersection of green industrial policy and trade. As such, the tool-box provides an overview of the trade-related green industrial policy instruments available and clarifies their structure and operation, while outlining their implications with regard to trade policy. The tools are embedded in an overall methodology consistent with the UNIDO Practitioner’s Guide to Strategic Green Industrial Policy.

To learn more and to access the tool-box, click here.

Trade and Green Economy Handbook

The Handbook gives a broad overview of the legal, economic and environmental developments that are shaping the future of trade. It outlines the key linkages between the environment and trade and reviews the evolution of the green economy framework. It therefore serves as a knowledge source for policymakers, trade practitioners, academics, and students to better understand the intersection of international trade, environment, and the green economy at the governance level.

Fisheries Subsidies

On fisheries subsidies, UN Environment’s work focuses on promoting integrated and well-informed responses to the need for fisheries subsidies reform. The book Fisheries Subsidies, Sustainable Development and the WTO serves as a comprehensive reference manual for policymakers and academics by providing a historic overview of fisheries subsidies reform key issues under WTO negotiations. Other policy papers include “Certification and Sustainable Fisheries”, “Role of Supply Chains in Addressing the Global Seafood Crisis”, “Towards Sustainable Fisheries Access Agreements-Issues and Options at the World Trade Organisation”. In addition, UN Environment has undertaken a variety of country projects in the fisheries sector, focusing on the impacts of trade liberalization on fisheries resources and the interaction between fisheries subsidies and fisheries management policies. Under the common objective of "Reforming trade and fisheries policies, re-shaping supply chains and enhancing consumer demand for sustainable fisheries management", country teams in Ecuador, South Africa and Vietnam explored public policy reforms related to fisheries management, subsidies and trade, as well as corresponding private sector voluntary actions, and supply chain interventions. UN Environment plays a lead role in promoting new market-based approaches and incentives to improve the sustainability of industrial and small-scale fisheries, such as the implementation of sustainability certification schemes. The project “Establishing sustainable, resource-efficient agri-food supply chains” focused on improving resource efficiency, including ecosystem services underpinning agricultural and fisheries production, as well as energy and water consumed in production, processing and trade.

For more information, please click here.

Green Economy and Trade E-learning course

The interactive and practice-oriented course seeks to provide interested participants from government, business, civil society and academia with an introduction to various approaches to promote and harness opportunities related to sustainable trade. The course will look at the nexus between trade and environment in the following modules: (i) Key concepts, trends and developments; (ii) Opportunities and enabling conditions for greening trade; (iii) Assessing and seizing sustainable trade opportunities in (a) the agricultural sector and (b) renewable energy sector (elective modules); and (iv) International trade governance and law.

This E-learning course is developed and delivered in partnership with UNITAR.

Trade and Climate Change

UN Environment’s work aims to assist policy makers by promoting a greater understanding of the interlinkages between trade and climate change, and how they can be mutually supportive. For example, the UN Environment-WTO report Trade and Climate Change explains the connections between trade and climate change. It examines the science of climate change and its economic aspects, multilateral efforts to tackle climate change, and national climate change policies and their effect on trade. The Report shows that trade intersects with climate change in a multitude of ways. In part, this is due to the innumerable implications that climate change may have, both in terms of its potential impacts and in terms of the profound regulatory and economic changes which will be required to mitigate and adapt to these impacts.

Reforming Harmful Subsidies

Reforming harmful subsidies has been a common goal of the trade and environment communities and features strongly in the WTO Doha agenda. UN Environment has long engaged in multilateral efforts for subsidies reform, including at the WTO. It supports phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels, unsustainable fisheries, and other environmentally and socially harmful activities. UN Environment assists governments and other stakeholders to develop national and international reforms that are social, inclusive and sustainable.

On energy subsidies, UN Environment focuses on reforming subsidies leading to overproduction and aligning fiscal incentives with the objectives of sustainable development. UN Environment has organised jointly with the International Energy Agency (IEA), a series of thematic workshops on reforming energy subsidies to further the dialogue on energy subsidies and their implications for sustainable development.

Trade and MEAs

Over the past twenty years, an extraordinary number of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) have been negotiated and ratified. These agreements represent the aspirations, commitments and obligations of their signatories for protecting the global environment. Work in this area aims to enhance synergies and reduce potential conflicts between MEAs and trade rules; build confidence and trust between trade and environment officials to ensure the development of mutually supportive trade and environment policies; and maintain the existing balance of rights and obligations within MEAs to preserve opportunities for future environmental instruments to include trade-related measures. Previous areas of work include a study on “Economic Instruments in Biodiversity-related MEAs” and the initiative of “Enhancing National Capacities to Assess Wildlife Trade Policies in Support of CITES”. The recent publication on “CITES and the WTO: Enhancing Cooperation for Sustainable Development” illustrates how the relationship between the CITES and the WTO has evolved into a leading example of how global trade and environmental regimes can support each other and work coherently to achieve shared objectives. Future work will focus on capacity building to strengthen MEA commitments through trade agreements.