Trade in environmentally sound technologies (EST)

In light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the international regulatory and political framework for trade and investment in environmentally sound technologies is being decisively reshaped. Environmentally sound technologies are technologies that protect the environment, are less polluting, use all resources in a more sustainable manner, recycle more of their wastes and products and handle residual wastes in an environmentally-friendly manner. Such technologies can also be referred to as clean technologies. Examples include renewable energy technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines, as well as air pollution mitigation equipment. Increasing the uptake of those technologies can result in several benefits for the environment.

Trade can scale up the use of clean technologies by opening markets, and stimulating innovation. This brings down their cost through economies of scale, and thereby making clean technologies more accessible to less developed countries. Trade policy instruments include tariff reductions, elimination of subsidies, voluntary sustainability standards, green procurement rules and trade finance. They can – if designed and applied properly - serve as effective vehicles to the development and application of environmentally sound technologies.

Connecting to global markets and clean technology value chains can help countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, such as clean water and sanitation (6), affordable and clean energy (7), and climate action (13), as well as targets related to energy innovation, sustainable agriculture and industrialization, as depicted in the illustration below.

How trade in environmentally sound technologies intersects with the sustainable development goals


What we do

Provide advice, impact analysis, and capacity building for countries to engage in the local production, deployment and trade of environmentally sound technologies and environmental services, while enhancing the use of global value chains and green export strategies.

For information about the Environment and Trade Hub’s work on environmentally sound technologies, please download the brochure here.


Trade in Environmentally Sound Technologies – the Perspective of Developing Countries

UN Environment’s report on South-South Trade in Selected Environmental Goods shows great potential for developing countries to benefit from enhanced trade, development and deployment of renewable energy technologies and other environmental goods. This project aims to explore the implication of trade liberalization of environmentally sound technologies, including in the context of international and regional negotiations on trade in environmental goods and services, and assist developing countries in understanding and assessing related opportunities, benefits and challenges.

Supported by the European Commission, this project works with a number of regional and international partners, including Technical University of Denmark, University of Malaya, African Centre for Technology Studies, University of Oxford, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and leading experts in the field of trade, technology, and innovation.

For more information, click here.