GE and Trade Approaches


Based on the conceptual framework of the GE-TOP report, UNEP undertakes three national-level pilot projects that identify and assess concrete trade opportunities associated with the transition to a green economy at national and sectoral level. In the development stage of GE-TOP country projects, UNEP applied a three-step selection process to - in sequential order - choose the partner country, sector of analysis, and national partner institute:

  • Projects are developed in countries where UNEP has active green economy advisory services that identified trade as an important aspect of countries’ green economy transition. All partnering countries expressed an explicit wish to use international trade as an engine for sustainable growth.
  • Jointly with each partner country, UNEP selected one sector that demonstrated particular opportunities for export of green products or services.
  • On the basis of the selected sector in each respective pilot country, UNEP identified a national country partner, for joint project implementation at national level. The choice was guided by a review of different country-level initiatives as well as by opinion from national stakeholders.

At the level of substantive analysis, the national GE-TOP analyses apply different quantitative and/or qualitative methodological frameworks that are developed by UNEP in partnership with modelling institutes, including the Millennium Institute (MI) and KnowlEdge Srl. The choice of models is tailored to the country and sector context of analysis, and developed in cooperation with national partner institutes and modelling experts. Examples of methodological tools used for GE-TOP analyses include the Threshold 21 model, which helps to assess the macroeconomic impacts of green exports in regards to all three pillars of sustainable development, and a framework methodology for cost-benefit analyses from sustainability certification that UNEP developed in 2013. The latter is applied for the certification-related GE-TOP analyses in Peru and Viet Nam. All methodological tools of choice are informed by secondary data and primary research through interviews, questionnaires etc. The overarching UNEP approach to trade analyses in national context is vested in the Trade Guidance Manual of 2001.

At the procedural and implementation level, GE-TOP projects are aligned with national development strategies of partnering countries in order to enhance the additionality and uptake of findings and recommendations. To enhance the national relevance of and ownership over analyses, projects are conducted in close collaboration with a range of local and national partners. Key national stakeholders are closely involved throughout the project, and assembled on occasion of national GE-TOP workshops.

In addition to the demand-driven, inclusive and participatory national and local process, UNEP consults and involves the expertise of various international partners, in order to explore synergies with other projects and foster mutually beneficial partnerships. Examples include UNEP’s partnership with the IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative for the GE-TOP Viet Nam project, and the UNEP-internal collaboration between Trade Unit, Energy Branch and UNEP Risoe Centre for the GE-TOP Ghana project.