The developing world must get ready to adapt its trade to climate change

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Isabelle Durant, Acting Secretary-General, UNCTAD


• In the absence of adaptation, developing countries stand to be hit the hardest by trade losses due to climate change.

• They must enact adaptation measures to ensure ‘trade-climate readiness’.

• Such efforts can ensure the economic resilience needed to achieve their future development goals.

The Paris Agreement on climate change is a landmark document for the world. However, despite the immense impact of climate change on trade, and the role it must play in our fight against global warming, the word trade is not mentioned once in the agreement.

In the space of only 200 years, we have put back into the atmosphere most of the CO2 that nature had spent millions of years absorbing from it. Now we are beginning to see the consequences. Climate change may seem to be evolving slowly at times, but the changes it produces are emerging at a quickening pace. Its initial effects are already being felt all over the world, but particularly in tropical and subtropical regions: the home of the world’s developing countries.

Many of these countries are among the least responsible for CO2 emissions; nevertheless, they are on the frontline in the battle against climate change. Small island developing states, for instance, are responsible for less than 1% of CO2 emissions, yet they are among the most vulnerable economies to climate change. Something is inherently unfair.

Agriculture, fisheries and tourism will continue to be the sectors hit hardest. This has far-reaching consequences, as in the developing world, and in least developed countries especially, these sectors are key contributors to national income and employment. They are also critical for trade as they accounted for 17% of exports from developing countries, more than 24% of the exports of least developed countries, and around 35% of exports from small island developing states in 2019.

Trade-climate readiness

Scientists have issued a stark warning: The current level of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere has locked us into irreversible climate change. And its adverse impacts will continue to grow in step with our inaction. There is no other option: Countries must urgently start planning and implementing actions to adapt their production and trade to the unforgiving effects of climate change. There is a growing need for countries to adapt production methods, identify new comparative advantages, and invest and diversify their economies, while building respective value chains. Such actions to ensure trade resilience as climatic conditions worsen is what we call trade-climate readiness.

What does this mean concretely? It means novel crops and cropping methods and intensified irrigation in farming, and more sustainable fishing methods and new fishing grounds. For the tourism sector, it implies moving tourism infrastructure to higher ground and adapting tourism offers in line with climatic conditions. Regional tourism will have an advantage with increasing climate awareness, and the industry must increasingly cater to domestic and regional market preferences.

In all economic sectors, developing country producers and businesses will need to climate-proof their activities against adverse conditions. The latter include storms, sea surges and floods of increased intensity and frequency, prolonged heatwaves and droughts, increased soil and beach erosion, and an impending influx of invasive species, pests and pathogens. At the same time, developing country governments will need to climate-proof transportation, water, energy and communications infrastructure.

Reducing the risks of economic activity and trade to future climate changes is the subject of a new UNCTAD Trade and Environment Review. It examines the physical impacts of climate change on developing countries and offers a methodology to assist them in enhancing their trade-climate readiness. It proposes a national multistakeholder process to assess sectoral impacts, evaluate response actions and related financing needs, and agree upon a set of trade-climate readiness adaptation actions and a time frame for their implementation.

Climate change threatens to drastically impact developing country exports – mitigation and adaptation measures can offset adverse impacts.
Climate change threatens to drastically impact developing country exports – mitigation and adaptation measures can offset adverse impacts. Image: UNCTAD

A green transformation does not come for free

Naturally, such transformations do not come for free. More investment is needed, as well as a clear trade strategy that enables these transformations. However, many developing countries have very limited resources to invest in and upgrade technology and infrastructure to adapt to climate change, or to finance new climate-proof production methods. Effective transformations also require that the right choices are made and acted upon on time.

Despite the urgent necessity for funding, international public finance for adaptation falls far short of estimated needs. In the Paris Agreement, developed countries committed to mobilize $50 billion annually to finance developing countries’ climate change adaptation actions through the Green Climate Fund. But actual needs range between $130-300 billion annually by 2030, and between $280-500 billion annually by 2050. And as of November 2020, only $7.2 billion had been approved and $1.4 billion disbursed by the fund.

The coronavirus further aggravates the colossal task ahead. The pandemic has reversed socio-economic progress on many fronts, eating up countries’ resources to finance their green economic transformation.

Global cooperation is an imperative

At the same time, in the midst of this challenge, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased our sense of shared vulnerability and our understanding that tackling global problems requires solidarity and cooperation. We must build on this experience and use it to inspire global action against climate change.

Renewed international engagement will be critical as we push for change at the global level. It must lead to additional funding for developing countries’ climate actions, and trade policies that support their participation in greener trade and regional value chains.

As a society, we have always been confident in our ability to develop remedies that resolve the problems we create. We have crafted vaccines to combat the coronavirus, and CO2 emission-reduction strategies to mitigate climate change. However, nature is unforgiving, and it now appears that neither of these clever remedies will completely rid us of the newfound foes we have let into our world.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.Global warming can be beaten thanks to this simple plan

The World Economic Forum’s Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

Contact us to get involved.

If we want to have a chance for a habitable planet by the turn of this century, we need a radical change, and trade must play a central role in this transformation.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Britain and Germany change attitude towards the European Union

Antitrust: Commission adopts guidance for national courts when handling disclosure of confidential information

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Hunger crisis in DR Congo, Swine Fever in Asia, Venezuela death investigation call, updates on Eritrea and Syria

How can we measure real progress on the Sustainable Development Goals?

This is how countries compare on gun deaths

Not much of a help the new EU Directive on pensions

EU-US trade talks go ahead despite Prism and civil rights breach

Yemen hospital airstrike under investigation amid resurgence of deadly cholera

At UN, Somalia’s President spotlights country’s progress, but cautions eradicating terrorism ‘will not be easy’

Restore land to save the planet, boost the economy, says head of UN body combating desertification

A day in the life of a refugee: why should we care?

5 ways the digitisation of the global logistics industry can increase trade – and reduce poverty

Hydrogen power is here to stay. How do we convince the public that it’s safe?

Italy can stand the US rating agencies’ meaningless degrading

Easing ‘classroom crisis’ in Côte d’Ivoire, brick by (plastic) brick

New energy security framework will help meet growing needs in East Africa, sustainably – UN economic wing

Technology companies have power. They must assume responsibility

‘Be the change’ we desperately need, UN deputy chief urges global youth

Team Europe increased Official Development Assistance to €66.8 billion as the world’s leading donor in 2020

Third EU-Western Balkans Media Days: EU reaffirms comprehensive support to media freedom in the region

Protecting people working through platforms: Commission launches a first-stage consultation of the social partners

Venezuela migrant crisis begs a ‘coherent, predictable and harmonized’ response: UNHCR

European Labour Authority starts its work

Drought in Europe: Commission presents additional measures to support farmers

Here’s how to achieve an optimal student/tutor ratio

Brexit: PM May must hush Boris Johnson to unlock the negotiations

Can ECB’s €60 billion a month save Eurozone?

This disability activist says we must offer dignity and financial inclusion rather than just braille and ramps

How Islamic finance can build resilience to climate change

State aid: Commission approves €300 million Austrian scheme to support organisers of events affected by coronavirus outbreak

Ethiopia is Africa’s fastest-growing economy

COP22 addresses a strong global pledge to effectively implement the Paris Agreement

‘Answer the call of Afghans’ to reduce impact of conflict, UN urges all parties amid increase in civilian airstrike deaths

6 charts that show how Japan’s economy stacks up as it enters a new era

As north-west Syria violence reaches ‘horrifying’ new level, UN relief chief says ceasefire is only option

Ambassador Zhang Ming’s speech at the European Policy Centre: China’s balanced counterargument to EU’s critics?

Inclusion, equality a must for ‘long-lasting peace and sustainable development’, UN official tells high-level event in Baku

Rare Disease Day: a new EU platform to support better diagnosis and treatment

‘Being open about my mental health created a better work culture’

‘Once lost, hearing doesn’t come back,’ World Health Organization warns on World Hearing Day

Three ideas for leaders to be more successful in the 21st century

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: #NoTobacco Day, China’s economy, family farming, #ClimateAction

Brexit: the Withdrawal Agreement passes the first European Parliament test

Trade, taxes and other takeaways from Li Keqiang’s speech to the World Economic Forum

Myanmar military committed ‘routine, systematic’ sexual violence against ethnic minorities, UN experts find

3 things the G20 can do to save the World Trade Organization

The Parliament accuses core EU countries of exploiting their dominant political position

Mental health: fighting the hidden pandemic

State aid: the Commission launches an in-depth investigation into the regulation mechanism for natural gas storage in France

Around 52 million in Near East, North Africa, suffering chronic undernourishment, new UN food agency report reveals

Three ways Finland leads the world – and education isn’t one of them

Climate Change : An Already Health Emergency

Ahead of street protests, UN rights chief urges Guatemalan Government to respect democratic freedoms

Changing how we produce and consume: New Circular Economy Action Plan shows the way to a climate-neutral, competitive economy of empowered consumers

Eurozone recession subsides

Here are three technology trends changing the way you travel

UK must make clear what it wants, MEPs say in Brexit debate

Mental health in times of a pandemic: What can each individual do to lessen the burden?

MEPs strongly condemn continuing violence in Yemen and military coup in Myanmar

We dream of being a part of the European family, says FYROM PM

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s