26 January 2022

Addressing Knowledge Gaps on Trade in Environmental Goods and Services

In the wake of COP26, as countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, governments have recognized the urgent need to build back a more resilient and cleaner economy and to accelerate the transition to a low carbon and resilient economy. To contribute to these discussion TESS convened an informal dialogue with experts from think tanks, international organizations, and academia.

In this context, trade is increasingly seen as an efficient way to foster the diffusion and uptake of technologies, goods and services that help reduce pollution, address climate change, and support a transition to a more circular economy, while providing market opportunities for products that are produced sustainability. These evolutions are prompting calls for renewed efforts to promote and facilitate trade in environmental goods and services (EGS). This is notably the case under the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussion (TESSD) or the Informal Dialogue on Plastic and Environmentally Sustainable Plastic Trade (IDP). Before launching new talks however, discussions so far have highlighted the need to address a number of challenges related to the definition and scope of EGS, the types of trade barriers affecting trade (tariff and non-tariff), and possible modalities for promoting, facilitating and liberalizing trade. Proponents of trade in EGS have also underlined their interest in ensuring a broad participation of WTO members including developing countries and LDCs and to focus on specific environmental issues – such as climate mitigation and adaptation, as well as plastic pollution – where developing countries have specific needs for environmental goods and services.

As a contribution to this process, TESS convened an informal dialogue with experts from think tanks, international organizations and academia active in conducting work on these issues.

The meeting provided an opportunity to identify key knowledge gaps relevant to discussions on EGS planned under the TESSD and IDP processes at the WTO; take stock of existing and planned activities by different stakeholders; and update participants on who is doing what. The objective was to highlight areas where further research and analysis is needed to support the engagement of Member States and stakeholders in EGS discussions, identify opportunities for synergies and collaboration, and avoid duplication.

The discussion kicked off with updates on work plans under TESSD and IDP for 2022 from their co-sponsors. This was followed by an update on discussions on trade in environmental goods and services in regional trade arrangements by Christophe Bellmann, Head of Policy Analysis and Strategy at TESS. The roundtable discussion that witnessed participants and representatives from various international organizations, in Geneva and around the world, was moderated by Carolyn Deere Birkbeck, Director of TESS.