Speaking at a WTO event on the sidelines of the COP27 climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan cited the urgent need to transition to low-carbon economies.  She said product standards are a considerable barrier for developing countries but that there were some companies that are ready to make the transition that should serve as an example.

The event ‘Accelerating the Low-Carbon Transition Through Sustainable and Inclusive Trade’, organised by the WTO and other international organisations, focused on ways sustainable trade can address the specific challenges of developing and least-developed countries (LDCs) in their transition towards low-carbon economies.

It brought together experts from international organisations working on sustainable trade as well as civil society advocates to explore how the transition to low-carbon economies can be a tool for development and support national efforts to achieve their nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Aik Hoe Lim, WTO Director of Trade and Environment, echoed Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s COP27 interventions by stating the role of trade is a missing piece in the climate discussions and said this year’s World Trade Report tries to fill that gap.

Recognising that greener markets and greener logistics of trade are necessary for a fast low-carbon transition, Lim said there were two ways to make this happen: the first is through energy and energy supply, and the second is through technology. He called on countries to use trade policies to enhance NDCs and lower the cost of green technologies needed for the energy transition.

Grynspan, meanwhile, called on multilateral development banks to “crowd in” investment and provide technical assistance to promote effective technology transfer practices. This call was amplified by Pamela Coke-Hamilton, executive director of the International Trade Centre, who noted that 40% of African companies are ready to do something to avert the effects of the climate crisis but that the remaining 60% need access to finance and technologies.

María Cecilia Quaglino, an Argentine climate advocate, called for joint efforts aimed at transforming current business practices and economic models. She acknowledged that before speaking about sustainable business practices, structural obstacles like poverty need to be addressed.