UN Environment and WTO launch dialogue on healthier environments through trade

28 January

UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim and World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevêdo announced today that their organizations would join forces to launch a new dialogue on promoting innovative ways of using trade to generate greater opportunities to strengthen our economies and our environments at the same time.

The two leaders underscored the urgency of facilitating a dialogue among all stakeholders to identify ways of ensuring that trade and environment policies are mutually supportive. At the same time, they recognized that any meaningful action towards bringing trade into closer alignment with a sustainable, inclusive and prosperous world economy would have to be underpinned by new forms of collaboration and innovative partnerships involving consumers, firms, governments and organizations.

The two organisations will aim to provide a platform for interested stakeholders from all sectors of society to exchange ideas, showcase successful experiences and improve understanding of how trade can more effectively help bring about inclusive and sustainable development, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. In this way, the initiative is intended to serve as a springboard for stakeholders around the world to seize the trade, investment and job opportunities resulting from the emerging shift towards more sustainable modes of production and consumption.

Executive Director Solheim said: “While trade has brought prosperity to many, we must ensure that it also works for our natural resources, for our climate and for all people. Governments, the private sector, and civil society need to understand that trade can and must work for the environment. By strengthening the collaboration between UN Environment and WTO we will provide a platform where environment and trade communities can join forces to find concrete ways to make trade work for the environment and a healthy planet.”

Director-General Azevêdo said: "This initiative is rooted in the very same notion that inspired the creation of the WTO more than 20 years ago: that trade can serve as a powerful tool to improve human well-being in all its dimensions – economic, social and environmental. By bringing together a wide range of stakeholders, we hope to provide a useful resource to explore practical ways to expand trade opportunities that are good for the economy and for the environment."

A high-level event in Geneva later in the year will bring together leaders from the public and private sectors to kick-start this work.