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ECOWAS woos member states on opportunities in ‘Green Trade’

Sequel to a January 2011 Workshop on Trade, Environment and Sustainable Development for Policy Makers in the Community, held in Accra, Ghana, the ECOWAS Commission has again initiated a workshop on the establishment of a Knowledge Management Platform on Trade and Environment Linkages with its member states.

This time around, the Commission backed by its development partners is seeking to strengthen its capacity and that of member states to generate and share information in the processes of negotiations and formulation of coherent policies on Trade and the Environment.

Addressing the opening session of the workshop on Monday in Abuja, the Commissioner for Trade, Customs, Industry, Mines and Free Movement in the ECOWAS Commission, Ahmed Hamid, told the gathering that the benefits of trade could only be maximized by effectively addressing and harnessing the linkages between trade and the environment.

“The need to develop and promote an integrated approach in the formulation and implementation of trade, environment and development policies and programmes can therefore not be over-emphasized”, the Commissioner stated.

Hamid who was represented by the Acting Director, Trade in the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Gbenga Obideyi, said “the recent expansion in the trade in biofuels has raised concerns that production is contributing to increased deforestation and leading to among others, food insecurity, the loss of biodiversity and the release of significant new volumes of carbon into the atmosphere”.

ECOWAS-Trade-and-Environment-4“In addition, importation of environmentally unsustainable goods can also undermine sustainable development through accelerated degradation including pollution of the environment”, the Commissioner added.

Also speaking, Ms. Isatou Gaye, Chief, Green Economy and Natural Resources Section, Special Initiatives Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said “Among the opportunities in the trade and environment nexus is the potential for increased volumes of tradable goods and services that can be realized through the sustainable exploitation and development of natural resources as well as ecological goods and services.

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“Trade can also benefit the environment sector. In addition to its role in economic diversification, trade is vital in accessing and diffusing technologies and practices that that can be deployed for enhancing the integrity and productivity of ecosystems”.

Ms. Gaye however pointed out that many challenges remain to be addressed. This, she said includes, “the concern that in the absence of effective and mutually supportive trade and environment policies, expanded trade leads to increased and unsustainable exploitation of environment and natural resources.

ECOWAS-Trade-and-Environment“This suggests that the benefits of trade can only be maximized by effectively addressing and harnessing the nexus of trade and environment. The need to develop and promote an integrated approach in the formulation and implementation of trade, environment and development policies is considered pertinent. This underlines various interventions undertaken by ECA and its partners in the areas of trade and environment linkages.

Mr. Joachim Monkelbaan of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) in his remarks reiterated the position of the workshop held in 2011 that trade should be a tool for development and poverty eradication.

According to him, next year, his organisation will seek partners to work on climate change and sustainable energy. “We are looking for both individuals and partner institutions for doing research and for organizing dialogues next year in the ECOWAS region.

“So we can have a talk if you’re interested in joining this initiative. So this is the real purpose of my participation: to build up longer-term working relations in the ECOWAS region for successful cooperation.

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Speaking further on climate change and sustainable energy, Monkelbaan said “Energy and in particular oil imports turned out to be a key environmental challenge at the last workshop. Apart from Nigeria, oil imports dominate the imports of the ECOWAS member States. Use of oil can lead to Water pollution, Air pollution, Land degradation, Loss of biodiversity; etc. but there are also alternatives to the use of oil”.

The representative of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Mr. Devin McDaniels, in his address told his audience that WTO rules provide sufficient policy space for Members to implement environmental protection measures.

“Promoting mutual supportiveness between trade policies and environmental policies is an important objective of the Doha Development round negotiations on environment. WTO is delighted to support the development of a Knowledge Platform on Trade and Environment Linkages for the ECOWAS Commission and its Member states”, said Mc Daniels.

Earlier in his opening remarks, Mr. John Maughan of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said the 20 year discussion on Trade and Environment: Green Economy Initiative seeks to shift dialogue from risks to the opportunities of the Green Economy.

He further disclosed that during the three day workshop, member states would be introduced to the Green Growth Knowledge Platform, a collaboration between UNEP, World Bank, OECD, and Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), and that concrete and practical information would be provided to facilitate work in developing a knowledge management platform for the ECOWAS region.

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