Background

The Trade, Policy and Planning Unit at UNEP seeks to identify opportunities at the crossroads of Green Economy and Trade.  If we are to reverse the global decline of biodiversity, mitigate the release of greenhouse gases, halt the degradation of terrestrial ecosystems and protect our oceans, then international trade must become sustainable and responsible. Furthermore, if we are to succeed in eradicating poverty, we will need to ensure that trade benefits the poor.

When accompanied by appropriate regulation, international trade and the green economy can interact in a bi-directional, mutually beneficial way. The Green Economy transition opens up rich new opportunities for regional and global trade. For example, the global market in low-carbon and energy efficient technologies is projected to nearly triple to US$ 2.2 trillion by 2020. At the same time, the Rio+20 conference identified international trade as an engine for development, sustained economic growth and the transition to a greener economy.

UNEP aims to enhance synergies between green economy and trade by:

  • informing the international debate through cutting-edge research,

  • engaging with a wide range of non-governmental organizations, businesses, research platforms, and UN partners in implementing the Green Economy Initiative, and

  • providing demand-driven policy advice, technical assistance and capacity-building to countries who wish to use international trade as an engine for a green economy transition.

In May 2013, UNEP launched the report “Green Economy and Trade – Trends, Challenges and Opportunities” (GE-TOP Report), which explores triple-win situations arising from the shift to a green economy in six key economic sectors. The report finds that many developing countries are well positioned to gain from mainstreaming sustainability considerations in their trade-driven growth strategies, including through the export of certified commodities in the fisheries, forests or agriculture sectors, increased investments in sustainable production and supply chains, or the expansion of eco-tourism.  

On the basis of the report’s empirical analysis, UNEP is undertaking national Green Economy and Trade projects in three pilot countries, namely Ghana, Peru and Viet Nam (GE-TOP Country Studies). The pilot studies examine policy reforms and enabling conditions required to maximize sustainable trade opportunities in selected sectors, and to minimize the adverse impacts thereof.

UNEP’s trade work is vested in strong partnerships with other international organizations, and contributes to a holistic and concerted approach to challenges at the nexus of green economy and trade.

Under the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), UNEP collaborates with ILO, UNIDO and UNITAR to build enabling conditions in developing countries for shifting investment and policy support towards a new generation of assets, including through trade-related policies and practices. This partnership directly responds to Paragraph 66 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document, which mandated the UN system with coordinating and developing models and tools for a green economy transition.  

With the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS), UNEP together with UNCTAD, FAO, ITC and UNIDO has created a platform for a policy dialogue on voluntary sustainability standards especially for developing countries. This initiative aims to foster an understanding on how voluntary sustainability standards can help implement strategies for sustainable development, green trade and a green economy.

For further information, please contact Anja von Moltke, Head of Trade, Policy and Planning Unit, at: anja.moltke@unep.org

 

Additional resources:

- Link to UNEP Resources on Trade and Environment
- Link to all events on Green Economy and Trade hosted by UNEP