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Published 21 July 2021
© Crown copyright 2021
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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/board-of-trade-report-green-trade/board-of-trade-report-green-trade-html-executive-summary
We face a challenge ahead to tackle climate change, but we have the tools at our disposal to help safeguard the environment, and accelerate the pace of the global green transition. With the support of international trade, green and growth can go hand-in-hand.
Green trade presents a major opportunity for the UK, creating high-value jobs in the low-carbon economy, driving sustainable growth in all corners of the nation, and fuelling technological innovations that can be exported to the world.
Free trade can be a lean, green, value-creating machine that is good for developed and developing nations alike. Global Britain must work with our friends and partners across the world to break down barriers to trade in environmentally beneficial goods and services – to ensure that free trade helps speed the uptake of green technologies across the world.
Fair trade supports the right kind of globalisation based on shared values. Too often, trade is affected by market failures and unfair market distortions – such as industrial subsidies – that incentivise poor practice and damage the environment. Together, we need to reform the global trading system to ensure that market forces are supporting the green transition not holding it back.
Our trading partners can see how much the UK values the environment through our world-leading efforts to decarbonise our economy, our leadership on nature and biodiversity and our efforts to build back greener from the coronavirus pandemic. Climate change and nature loss are at the forefront of the international agenda but mostly, until now, have only been discussed on the fringes of the trade agenda – they must be brought closer together. This is why I am proud to present the second report by the Board of Trade, which outlines how green trade can support environmental action.
This year marks a pivotal moment for trade and the environment, for the UK in particular – with our Presidency of the G7 and the COP26 conference in Glasgow. The UK will neither sacrifice our values – freedom, democracy, human rights and the environment – nor our economic opportunity. We have a great story to tell as a green trading nation, with our newly independent trading status and a global reputation for protecting the environment and reducing emissions. We must continue to champion green trade, because it is good for our economy and it is good for the world.
The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP
Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
This second report by the Board of Trade sets out the economic case for green trade and the opportunity for Global Britain to accelerate the global green transition by promoting free and fair green trade.[footnote 1]
There are 7 key points to draw from this Board of Trade paper:
Natural disasters have already caused $3 trillion of damage this century. $44 trillion of economic value is highly or moderately dependent on nature and exposed to nature loss. Global GDP could be 10% smaller by 2050 if temperatures rise to 2.6°C above pre-industrial levels versus a Paris-aligned world.
Action through trade can both help safeguard the environment and ensure the global trading system is able to withstand the shocks and shifts it may face due to environmental degradation.
Since 1990, the UK has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 44% – faster than any other G20 economy – and has committed to protecting 30% of UK land by 2030 to support the recovery of nature. The UK is also a bastion of free trade and has significant industrial strengths – plus a burgeoning green finance sector – to help speed the global transition.
The UK can spearhead the global green transition by developing innovative green technologies to export to the world and by doubling down on its success as a global hub for green finance.
The economic opportunities are significant – $30 trillion of global investment funds are already invested in sustainable assets – having doubled in just 4 years. The UK’s low carbon economy could grow by 11% per year and the global export market for low-carbon products could be worth up to £1.8 trillion by 2030. By 2050, there could be more than 1.2 million full time workers directly employed in the UK’s low carbon industries in England alone.
Free trade helps spread green technologies around the world and speed the global transition. The UK has already used its new independent trade policy to reduce barriers to trade in environmental goods and services, including through the UK Global Tariff, which removed tariffs on over 100 green goods.
Market failures and distortions – such as industrial subsidies – can incentivise unsustainable consumption, warp trade flows and damage the environment. The UK is already working to address these unfair trade practices, including by championing the case for reform of fisheries subsidies at the WTO. The UK Government has also announced a world-leading policy to end government support for the fossil fuels energy sector overseas.
The Board of Trade wants the UK to build on this existing activity and foster trade policy that protects the environment in 3 key areas:
The UK should shape the 21st century international trading system by:
The UK should consider all options for advancing environmental goods and services liberalisation by:
using its membership of TESSD to re-launch discussions on the Environmental Goods Agreement
helping shape green policies as part of the Government Procurement Agreement at the WTO, so that government levers are used to increase the use of green products and services
seeking ‘best in class’ free trade agreements (FTAs), based on liberal green trade principles, that create a platform for collaboration and safeguard the UK’s right to regulate
The UK should make astute use of its trade levers to tackle environmentally damaging market distortions by:
deploying its diplomatic and/or regulatory diplomacy tools as a priority to encourage environmental action alongside considering proportionate use of trade policy
deploying its trade levers where evidence points to a clear need for action and in a manner that is consistent with the UK’s international obligations
developing trade policy solutions (if required) that draw in large numbers of countries, ideally developed at the multilateral or plurilateral level
using bilateral trade levers – including FTAs – to safeguard the UK’s existing environmental standards, promote sustainable trade and, where possible, to raise environmental standards
pursuing unilateral action in limited circumstances, in a way that ensures trade remains fair
steering the global debate on carbon leakage, by applying the above policy approach in practice
Data sources for all figures provided in the executive summary are included in the main body of the report. ↩
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