Saturday, July 02, 2016

Three ideas on climate action

A few interesting ideas have come up in the last few days regarding the link between trade and climate action. The first one is the possibility of having a mechanism similar to Aid For Trade that could allow to more effectively channel cooperation from the Green Climate Fund to those countries that need it most. This fund has been agreed by global consensus through the Paris Agreement and will consist of US$100 billion/year from 2020. Aid For Trade has been an effective mechanism making impact investment in least developed countries (LDCs) to help them improve their trading capabilities, infrastructure, policies, etc. In fact, one good question to ask is how versatile is the Aid For Trade mandate to adapt to climate priorities being financed by the Climate Fund.

The second one was an idea elaborated at a clean energy technologies forum, which argued that technology was the main cause of climate change and, therefore, the main force for transformation. I found the argument very interesting because it removed the typical “blame game” that usually points fingers at developed countries or fossil-dependent economies and moved it towards technology, which all nations alike use one way or another. Most importantly, it points the critical route of action in the direction of all the new technologies –some which don't even exist yet – and the fast deployment and implementation that we all have to go through, developing and developed countries alike. Something resonated in my head and it was the idea that a fossil-based economy’s wealth comes to the detriment of everyone’s (environmental) poverty. Pollution makes us poorer.

The third idea came up at a conversation among a few friends of the WTO in which there was a tit-for-tat kind of discussion. If major subsidizers of domestic agriculture do not acknowledge the need to reduce those subsidies themselves, then the rest of the world won’t do anything to eliminate such subsidies for themselves. The prisoner’s dilemma in its clearest form: who moves first? It is very important to understand that the currency that makes the world go round in every civilized human interaction we experience is trust. Without it, not even a stoplight works. Not even buying groceries. We trust each other predominantly in everything we do. We buy a drink trusting it will not be toxic, or a car trusting it will be safe. But when it comes to multilateral negotiations, mistrust is the name of the game.

My opinion is that we can’t wait for the largest polluters to discipline their transition to a low carbon economy. We are not continuing our discussions at the WTO as a follow-up for what the ministerial conference at Nairobi was or was not. We are now in a post-Paris Agreement scenario, where all hands are on deck to make the swift transformation required to avoid a global warming beyond a maximum 2C over the long-term average.

In that same way, we cannot wait for subsidizers to eliminate their domestic support unilaterally before we take action about it. We can make economic or legal or political sense of the different arguments to bring people around the table. Most importantly, this conversation is absolutely ineffective to the most critical and urgent global the table. Most importantly, this conversation is absolutely ineffective to the most critical and urgent goals our planet faces. If we can’t overcome prisoners’ dilemmas in trade negotiations, we might have to shift the purpose of why we are doing this ultimately: for life to thrive on Earth. Otherwise, there is no business in a dead planet.