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Alternative trade for the planet

photo : Auntie K/CC BY-NC 2.0

Trade Justice Movement | 18 January 2021

Alternative trade for the planet

Tackling the climate and environmental crises is more urgent than ever and global momentum to do so is building rapidly. Yet international trade law lags behind and threatens to choke off serious action.

The UK has a unique opportunity to shape its trade policy so that it is in line with its climate and environmental commitments. Provisions in areas as diverse as intellectual property, investment protection and agriculture need fresh thinking to ensure they support the transition to low carbon industry, agriculture and transport, and support regulatory innovation and the sharing of green technology.

The need to reshape trade policy is urgent : current provisions in trade deals are already preventing a range of measures necessary for a just transition towards a low-carbon economy. The UK can play an important part globally by designing its trade policy so that it is guided by and makes a positive contribution to climate and environmental justice, both domestically and internationally.

This report argues that a new approach to trade law is necessary to ensure it plays its part in the response to the dual crises referred to above. In this context, the aims of international trade law should be to :

  • Reinforce existing international environmental commitments including multilateral environmental agreements
  • Provide strong, enforceable guarantees that parties will have the freedom to develop and implement domestic law and policy which enhance environmental protection
  • Include a core list of environmental principles to prohibit any weakening of environmental laws, including meaningful and enforceable commitments to non-regression in trade agreements
  • Support and strengthen environmental governance and
  • Allow production subsidies for specific green products and technologies

The report recommends that the UK develop an overarching strategy to set out how it can implement those aims. It recommends that the UK :

  • Create the right enabling environment for trade negotiations
  • Get the right balance between trade agreements and environmental goals
  • Rethink trade rules
  • Ensure democratic structures are in place.
  • Ensure environmental commitments are binding and
  • Promote responsible business conduct

Download (pdf)

 source: Trade Justice Movement