ACCTS Negotiations: An Opportunity for Collective Action

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With the effects of climate change perturbing most the sustainability of the development paths of trade-dependent economies, keeping (some would say restoring) an open world trading system is increasingly urgent. Multilateral and regional negotiations of the past 20 years have failed to bring Governments to agree on trade measures (e.g. restrictions on trade in environmental goods and services) that would help mitigate environmental damage related to climate change. However, Costa Rica, Fiji, Iceland, New Zealand and Norway have just come together to launch negotiations for an Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS), bringing hope. The motto is “do something for the environment, NOW”.

This paper documents how small island economies like Mauritius would benefit from joining the ACCTS. Expanded trade in Environmental Goods and Services would help preserve the environment by switching consumption towards environmentally preferable products (e.g. bicycles) and getting greater access to goods for environmental management (e.g. wind turbines). Though politically difficult to carry out, reducing environmentally harmful fuel subsidies would bring the greatest benefits for the environment. Encouragingly, health benefits through lower emissions of carbon monoxide and other local toxic pollutants would accrue directly to the countries revising their policies in the energy sector. Progress on environmental services would also be possible if the group revisits the current list of sectors used in multilateral negotiations. Importantly, this small group of relatively similar (small trade-oriented economies) would be conducive to reaching an agreement which would hopefully lead the way to further steps towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals to which all UN members have taken on board.