18 Jan 2022

Why governments need to tackle the impact of trade on climate change - An Interview with Prof. Em. Thomas Cottier

At the moment, we are still too dependent on voluntary and unilateral commitments, which do not entail any obligations under international law.

Prof. Em. Thomas Cottier

In an interview with Swissinfo, Prof. Em. Thomas Cottier, former Managing Director of the WTI, talks about the significant environmental impact of the production and trade of goods in a globalised market.

Sneak peek:

SWI swissinfo.ch: What conclusions do you draw from the decisions taken at COP26 in November?

Thomas Cottier: The decisions taken in Glasgow on the basis of the Paris Accord of 2015 are essentially unilateral commitments by states. The international community doesn’t really have the means to make them binding. If countries like India and China don't make clear commitments, not much can be done. Besides, too little finance has been secured for climate change adaptation measures in developing countries, and industrialised countries are yet to pledge contributions to the Green Climate Fund [a global platform to respond to climate change by investing in low-emission projects] and other tools.

SWI: So more needs to be done...

T.C: Definitely, I would say so. There was no real discussion on trade measures at COP26 to advance the goals of the conference. Many of the measures taken by countries will affect the international trade in goods and services. Countries should seek to find common ground in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

So far, the Geneva-based WTO and its members have taken a rather passive stand. They refrain from pro-actively addressing the problem of climate change or biodiversity, except in the ongoing negotiations on fisheries, which seek to reduce fossil fuel subsidies for fishing fleets.

On the upside, important progress was made in the accounting of carbon emissions, which is crucial to define a globally valid carbon price and carbon trading system.

To read the full interview conducted by Sara Ibrahim, please click here.