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UNEP and IISD Have Developed A New Trade and Green Economy Handbook

World Trade  – Environment

Open Eyes Opinion {source: UNEP}

New Handbook Explores How Trade Can Drive the Transition to a Green Economy

Global Trade Reached US$23.4 Trillion in 2013, Highlighting Financial Power that Could be Harnessed for Sustainable Development.


Trade must be harnessed as a positive economic, social and environmental change, rather than a driver of environmental degradation

Geneva, 28 April 2015 – A new handbook released today aims to boost the interaction between trade and the Green Economy, thus opening up new possibilities to drive sustainable development.

The Trade and Green Economy Handbook-produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), a leading international think tank-was launched at a High-Level Panel featuring Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), and Scott Vaughan, President and CEO of IISD.

In 2013, the financial volume of global trade amounted to US$23.4 trillion, roughly a third of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At the same time, the world’s environmental indicators revealed that the pressure exerted by trade on the environment is taking its toll.

As the Handbook illustrates, if these trends are to be reversed, one of the key catalysts of these changes must be the harnessing of trade as a positive economic, social and environmental change, rather than a driver of environmental degradation.

“UNEP is working on several fronts to assure that trade will be used as an important tool in the transition to the Inclusive Green Economy,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “The objective of this handbook is to increase coordination and reduce tension between the international trade and environment agendas. Doing so will allow the power of trade to open new pathways to achieve sustainable development”.

The Handbook covers a wealth of new information, including the emergence of the Green Economy concept, the latest World Trade Organisation (WTO) jurisprudence and the increasingly important linkages between trade and inclusive Green Economy policies and practices. These developments are considered amid the changing dynamics of international trade with the increased importance of global value chains and the rise of regional trade agreements.

The Green Economy presents a model for reversing environmental degradation and pollution by altering economic structures and incentives in a way that supports growth, social equity and welfare through the preservation and sustainable use of natural resources and vigilant control of pollution.

“Trade and investment flows, policies and law have enormous potential to transform our economies and societies, and in fact they do soon a daily basis,” said Scott Vaughan, President of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. “The challenge is to ensure that transformative power is directed toward sustainable development outcomes, both within countries and globally. This Handbook is a guide to that challenge: a rich portrait of the dynamic that is the trade and green economy relationship”.

The Handbook is aimed at those policy makers interested in the transition to a Green Economy who require a better understanding of the relevant trade rules as well as trade negotiators who want to learn about the environmental implications of their decisions. Its objective is to increase coordination and reduce tension between the international trade and environment agendas in order to open new pathways to achieve sustainable development.

The panel discussed ways to build synergies among the international trade, environment and investment regimes. This year is marked by a number of events and international agreements that will substantially shape the relationship between these regimes. The Paris Climate Change Conference, the Financing for Development Conference in Addis and the currently negotiated plurilateral Environmental Goods Agreement, for example, present major opportunities to use trade as a driver of sustainable development.

Meanwhile, sustainability considerations within new bilateral, regional and “mega-regional” trade and investment agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (United States and North America) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Pacific Nations of Americas and Asia, excluding China) are urgently needed.

The Handbook will be released in English, French, Spanish and Chinese and will be available online at

About UNEP

UNEP is the voice for the environment in the UN system. Established in 1972, UNEP’s mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

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About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development is a non-partisan, charitable organization specializing in policy research, analysis and information exchange to further advance sustainable development globally. A globally-focused applied research organization, IISD has offices in Winnipeg, Ottawa, Geneva, New York and Beijing, and staff in India, Kenya, Tunisia, Brussels, Washington, Toronto and elsewhere striving to improve the well-being of the world’s environment, economy and society. IISD creates and communicates innovative policy research for decision-makers in government, business and civil society. IISD is fundamentally committed to evidence-based policy making.

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