Trade, when accompanied by appropriate policies for the environment and society, can be a principal driver of the transition to an inclusive green economy. Since 2002, the financial volume of international trade has more than tripled. Trade can open domestic production to larger and often completely new global markets for environmental goods and services, thereby encouraging or even providing the basis for investment and growth in green industries.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda recognizes international trade and investment as key and cross-cutting means of imple­mentation for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The historical agreement reached at the COP21, also known as the Paris Climate Conference, opens a new chapter in the journey of tackling climate change and is expected to trigger actions that drive the development and diffusion of clean technologies and green transport. Global trade in environmental goods is presently estimated at USD 1 trillion annually and is projected to grow to USD 2-3 trillion by 2020.

UN Environment’s trade work is vested in the belief that while the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda offers many oppor­tunities for sustainable trade, it cannot be achieved with­out balancing the rapid growth of international trade with environmental and social safeguards. Governments have recognized that countries worldwide, and developing countries in particular, continue to lack sufficient capacity to use trade and investment as vehicles for achieving sustainable development. The UN Environment's Environment and Trade Hub responds to this critical need.

The Environment and Trade Hub, formally launched by former UN Environment's Executive Director Mr. Achim Steiner in 2015, serves as the overarching delivery mechanism for UN Environment’s work on trade. As a demand-driven mechanism, the Environment and Trade Hub offers capacity building and related policy advice on sustainable trade and investment that are tailored to local needs and circumstances.  

The Environment and Trade Hub structures its work around four focus areas, cutting across the SDGs and providing avenues for sound implementation. Click on the boxes below for more information:

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Under the Green Economy and Trade Opportunities Project, the Environment and Trade Hub worked at the country-level to develop a global framework demonstrating the mutually beneficial relationship between trade and green economy, further identifying concrete trade opportunities at sector-specific level. The Environment and Trade Hub found and promoted opportunities pertaining to sustainability standards and ecolabels in the agricultural sector in Chile; solar energy exports in Ghana; value chains in the biotrade sector in Peru; organic agriculture in South Africa, and sustainably certified aquaculture in Vietnam.

Among other country-level activities, the Environment and Trade Hub provides advice, impact analysis and capacity building for countries to engage in the local production and trade of environmentally sound technologies, and has specifically examined opportunities for trade in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies among developing countries in Southeast Asia.

The Environment and Trade Hub’s work has been closely coordinated with international and regional initiatives, including the Partnership Action on Green Economy (PAGE), another mechanism through which UN Environment delivers trade-related work.

Furthermore, UN Environment’s trade’s policy support entails frequent and substantive engagement in various international fora, including exchanges with trade delegates. As an official observer of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE), UN Environment regularly engages WTO members to identify trade and Green Economy interlinkages and to bolster policy support.

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