WTO urges integrating trade policies into global climate action

Trade policies should be incorporated into global climate action to augment financing and other climate-related support provided to vulnerable economies, World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said.

“I feel trade is part of the solution. You might have financing, but if the trade policies don’t align, you may not be able to get the technologies you need for climate adaptation,” Okonjo-Iweala said at a recent Africa Adaptation Summit organized by the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Africa and many parts of Asia are among the most vulnerable to climate change and often, proposed solutions have hinged on rich nations who are largely culpable for higher emissions to fund climate adaptation strategies.

Okonjo-Iweala argues it is possible to increase the return on investments in adaptation strategies and increase the resources available to African governments for adaptation through trade.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change in its February report said actions can be taken in the near-term, to address desertification, land degradation, and food security while supporting longer-term responses that enable adaptation and mitigation to climate change.

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These include actions to build individual and institutional capacity, accelerate knowledge transfer, enhance technology transfer and deployment, enable financial mechanisms, implement early warning systems, undertake risk management and address gaps in implementation and upscaling.

Africa is likely to be the continent most affected by climate change, accounting for 80% of the world’s population that is most at risk, Okonjo-Iweala said citing IPCC report, a development that calls for more attention on agriculture.

Climate impacts could cause crop productivity growth on the African continent to shrink by a third and lead to annual GDP losses of 3.8% by 2060 and trade will be vital to offset future shocks in agricultural output by ensuring access to new technologies such as more resilient crop varieties and better irrigation and water storage systems, the Director-General said.

Ahead of COP 27 in Egypt later in the year, reducing trade costs, she added, could also significantly reduce the welfare losses from climate change in low-income countries.

“At COP27, along with climate finance issues, we need to give focus to trade and investment facilitation for the just climate transformation that we need.”

At the sidelines of the summit, DG Okonjo-Iweala and GCA Chief Executive Officer Patrick Verkooijen signed a memorandum of understanding between the two organizations to intensify collaboration on trade and adaptation action in countries and regions vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the GCA.

The GCA is an international organization that works as a solutions broker to accelerate action and support for adaptation solutions, from the international to the local, in partnership with the public and private sectors.

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