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Open trade will protect our environment - Pascal Lamy
Jun '10
On the occasion of World Environment Day on 5 June 2010 Director-General Pascal Lamy said “we simply cannot proceed with business as usual — if our planet is to be preserved for future generations, we must protect our resources, our planet's biodiversity and our environment at large”. He noted that “the leaders that founded our organization were adamant that sustainable development lies at the very core of our mission”.

The Celebration holds deep meaning for us all. As we slowly emerge from one of the deepest economic crises, it is evident that we simply cannot proceed with business as usual. If our planet is to be preserved for future generations, we must protect our resources, our planet's biodiversity and our environment at large.

Trade opening has much to contribute in the fight against climate change and to the protection of the environment, but the WTO is about much more than trade opening. The leaders that founded our organization were adamant that sustainable development lies at the very core of our mission. To ensure that this would be the case, governments have agreed that WTO members will have the necessary flexibilities they need to pursue their environmental objectives.

Trade opening improves the allocation of resources at the international level, including of natural resources. International trade can help countries with scarce water resources actually save their water by purchasing water-intensive agricultural products from abroad, for example. Trade also generates economic growth which can create demand for higher environmental standards, and the financial capacity to respond to this demand.

Nevertheless, it is doubtless true that such growth could lead to a greater use of energy and to higher levels of CO2 emissions. This said, about 90% of trade is moved by ship — a mode which leaves a smaller CO2 footprint than any other form of transportation.

There is also the fact that more open trade can facilitate improved production methods and can make environmentally friendly products and technologies more accessible to more consumers at lower costs. This will surely be needed to reduce the use of energy and pollution.

Protecting the environment also means protecting our oceans. Over fishing depletes fish stocks in our oceans and threatens many species with extinction. Many environmentalists directly link certain types of government subsidies to over fishing. Reducing fisheries subsidies could significantly reduce over fishing and foster species preservation, which is why WTO Members are presently negotiating stronger international disciplines in this field. A deal in the WTO would mean richer oceans for future generations and would constitute a triple-win for trade, environment and development.

The entire world is well aware of the environmental dangers posed to our planet. But the ability of governments to respond to these dangers is tied closely to the resources at their disposal. Countries which have had success in alleviating poverty and raising living standards, tend to be more adept at creating the conditions for a cleaner environment. Yet, there is no doubting that the problem we confront is not one we can tackle individually. Global problems require global solutions, for which sound global environmental governance is key.

World Trade Organization

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