18 April 2024

Brainstorming Roundtable on Nature-Positive Trade Rules for Sustainable Development

TESS, NatureFinance, and UNEP hosted an expert brainstorming meeting bringing together expertise on trade, environment and sustainable development, and finance and nature respectively to explore the role of trade and trade rules in addressing the biodiversity crisis and supporting a global bioeconomy that serves sustainable development.

The objective of the roundtable was to take a step back and foster a more systemic and long-term vision for a nature-positive trading system. Discussion focused on the following questions, with thought-starter remarks to provide context and spur interventions:

  1. What are the challenges to scaling up local and regional nature-positive trade practices at a global level, and how can these barriers be overcome?
  2. How can trade policies, rules, and agreements be more responsive and adaptive to emerging nature and climate risks at the global and regional level?
  3. What kinds of harmonized metrics, definitions, principles, policies, or standards can support the acceleration of sustainable and equitable biotrade and a positive role for trade in fostering a sustainable bioeconomy? What do more inclusive processes for establishing them look like?
  4. What kinds of trade rules and agreements present inconsistencies with or opportunities for nature-positive trade and a sustainable bioeconomy? What kinds of approaches can most effectively incorporate sustainability impacts and incentives?
  5. What kinds of strategic approaches to cooperation on trade and trade measures could empower low- and middle-income countries to effectively participate in nature positive trade and prosper from a global bioeconomy in ways that support sustainable development and poverty reduction?

To spur discussion, a short background note provided a review of some of the key issues on the current landscape, risks, and opportunities.


14:00 – 14:15 Introduction and framing remarks by the organizers

  • Elisa Tonda, Chief, Resources and Market Branch, UNEP
  • Julie Mccarthy, Co-CEO, Nature Finance
  • Carolyn Deere Birkbeck, Executive Director, TESS

14:15 – 15:00 Session 1: Setting the scene - Trade-related trends and challenges for nature- positive trade and the bioeconomy

This session started with a brief review of the policy landscape and the evolution of key trends on nature-positive trade and the global bioeconomy, highlighting interlinkages with other planetary crises and implications for inclusive sustainable development, especially poverty, inequality, and employment. This included reflection on high impact sectors of the economy where the trade-nature-sustainable development nexus is particularly relevant. The discussion focused on lessons learned so far and factors challenging the urgently needed key challenges affecting the transformation and scaling up of local and regional nature-positive trade practices, including how trade rules and policies constrain or enable such an evolution.

  • Moderator: Julie Mccarthy, Nature Finance

Thought starters

  • Courtney Lowrance, The Nature Conservancy
  • Markus Lehmann, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  • Beatriz Fernandez, UNEP

Open discussion among participants

15:00 – 16:15 Session 2: Options, principles, and approaches for trade policies and rules to respond to nature risks and incentivize sustainable and nature positive trade

This session explored how trade policies, including the disciplines and basic principles enshrined in existing trade agreements, could respond better to emerging and interlinked nature and climate risks, while supporting sustainable development and poverty reduction objectives. In particular, it considered the type of cooperation frameworks and rules on trade that would enable and drive the emergence and growth of nature economies, where nature is properly valued and traded sustainably. In doing so, the discussion reviewed possible approaches, including harmonized metrics, definitions, principles, economic incentives, or standards and regulations that can foster a shift away from trade patterns that harm the environment towards nature-positive trade that supports sustainable development.

  • Moderator: Carolyn Deere Birkbeck, TESS

Thought starters

  • Aaron Cosbey, IISD
  • Marianne Kettunen, Trade, Development and the Environment Hub (TRADE Hub)
  • Gabrielle Marceau, University of Geneva

Open discussion among participants

16:15 – 16:55 Session 3: Possible options for enhanced cooperation to overcome barriers and scale up the bioeconomy in favor of sustainable development

This session focused on identifying possible approaches to international cooperation towards nature-positive trade rules that would gain broad-based support among countries at different levels of development in view of greater coherence. In particular, it assessed strategic collaborative actions that could empower low- and middle-income countries to effectively participate in nature positive trade and prosper from a global bioeconomy in ways that support sustainable development and poverty reduction. It sought to identify a specific menu of issues that would warrant further consideration for a global agenda on scaling up trade policy in support of the bioeconomy and sustainable development.

  • Moderator: Carolyn Deere Birkbeck,

Thought starters

  • Chantal Line Carpentier, UNCTAD
  • Vicente Yu, Independent Consultant

Open discussion among participants

16:55 - 17:00 Key takeaways and closing remarks

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