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UNEP Report Analyzes Green Economy and Trade Opportunities in Developing Countries

UNEP8 May 2013: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a report, titled 'Green Economy and Trade: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities,' which argues that an increase in trade in environmental goods and services and certified products can stimulate the transition to a green economy, while such a transition can create further opportunities for increased trade in such products and services. The report analyzes challenges to such a transition, in particular for developing countries that are endowed with abundant renewable resources, and provides suggestions to overcome them.

The report starts with discussing current trends in trade flows, impacts of trade on natural resources and the environment, and the situation of the least developed countries (LDCs), in particular regarding their reliance on natural resource-based products and raw materials. The report then analyzes emerging opportunities of enhanced trade in six sectors: agriculture, fisheries, forestry, manufacturing, renewable energy, and tourism. The report focuses in this respect on: sustainable farming practices, such as organic production; the greening of the supply chains of large multinational companies; the sustainable management of wild-capture fisheries, including through certification; organic and sustainable aquaculture; sustainable forest management, including through certification; the manufacturing of products with environmentally friendly designs; environmental management systems for manufacturing facilities; low-carbon and energy efficient technologies in the renewable energy sector, including solar panels, wind turbines and solar water heaters; and sustainable tourism.

The report continues by highlighting several challenges to overcome in order to fully exploit the identified opportunities. These include: limitations in financial and human resources; weak regulatory frameworks; lack of enforcement mechanisms; and poor economic infrastructure. The report suggests several avenues to address these challenges, including: public investments in key economic infrastructure, technical assistance, targeted education programs and access to sustainable resources; the elimination of harmful subsidies, such as for fossil fuels; the internalization in the price of environmental and social costs of production and consumption; regulatory improvements, such as integrating the greening of corporate practices in national sustainable development strategies; action at the international level, such as new multilateral trade rules under the World Trade Organization (WTO) to support sustainable trade, and the further liberalization of trade in environmental goods and services; and capacity building and scaled-up support for developing countries from international governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector.

The report is the first key publication from UNEP's Green Economy and Trade Opportunities Project (GE-TOP). Responding to calls made at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) in June 2012, the project will provide, in its next phase, sector-specific assistance to developing countries through inclusive stakeholder processes. [UNEP Press Release] [UN Press Release] [Publication: Green Economy and Trade: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities] [Publication: Green Economy and Trade: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities: Executive Summary]