Trade & Supply Chains

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Can the international trade system be a catalyst for reforming fossil fuel subsidies (FFSs) to help relieve the burden on the public purse, reduce local and global air pollution, improve energy security and tackle climate change? 

“We can’t introduce additional environmental policies. Won’t they negatively impact our economic growth?”

The US government argues that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), concluded last October with 11 other Pacific Rim countries, “includes the most robust enforceable environment commitments of any trade agreement in history.” But is this really the case?

Trade is an important driver of economic growth. In 2014, world merchandise exports amounted to over US$ 19 trillion (WTO, 2015). However, increasing volumes of trade without appropriate policy support can have adverse consequences, such as pollution and emissions from transport, pressure on natural resources extraction for production and processing, and social marginalisation through rising income inequality or joblessness.

Nevertheless, trade, when accompanied by appropriate regulation, can facilitate green growth by creating new export markets for environmental goods and services, by increasing trade in products certified for sustainability and promoting certification-related services, and by greening international supply chains. The adoption of more resource- and energy-efficient production methods as part of green economy measures has an important role to play in helping both nations and firms secure access to, and long-term competitiveness in, international markets.

Relevance to the SDGs

Trade affects the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in all sectors. For example, reducing world agricultural market distortion is directly linked to SDG 2 on achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture and target 15.7 aims to reduce trade in poached or illegally trafficked wildlife. SDG 8, specifically target 8.A calls for an increase in Aid for Trade to developing countries. And SDG 17 recognized trade as a way to strengthen the means of implementation for sustainable development.

   Agricultural Trade   
   SDG 15.7
        Wildlife Trade        
   SDG 17
Means of Implementation


United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP)
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Best Practices

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Learning Products

United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), University of Eastern Finland
United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)
United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)