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on environmental protection and climate change. However, case studies from developing countries have also highlighted that in the absence of appropriate sustainability provisions, trade may also lead to detrimental environmental ef-fects. As the demand for products from developing countries increases because of the increased market access, so does production, motorised transport and urbanisation and land conversion from forested to agricultural purposes in the beneficiary developing countries. It is therefore important to ensure that ap-propriate mechanisms are included in FTAs when it comes to the enforcement of environmental standards, so that developing countries have the right set of incentives to comply with global targets aimed at the reduction of greenhouse emissions.
Many of the GSP beneficiaries are African nations that are also engaged now in implementing the provisions of the Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU. Therefore, it is paramount for the EU and African nations to main-tain and strengthen the strategic partnership that supports strong institutions, democratic governance, peace and security, and a sustainable economic de-velopment. The main focus for the future of this partnership is the sustain-able development of the agrifood sector of the southern continent. In 2017, the former EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan (now the Commissioner for Trade) stressed the importance of private invest-ment in the sector, as millions of more jobs will be needed to accommodate the fast-growing African population. The future of Africa will also have to rely on the sustainable management of natural resources, and its partnership with the EU can certainly help in that matter.
Trade policies and instruments can steer the path towards a sustainable fu-ture, if coupled with a clear plan on how to tackle the environmental chal-lenges that the world is facing nowadays.
193 climate action in one country pushed polluters to shift to another country (Fi-nancial Times, 2020).
Renewable energy sources will also take a centre-stage role in this transition, and the latter will also require smart infrastructures, such as smart grids, hydro-gen networks, and innovative energy storage solutions. This transition towards a more sustainable EU will also be an opportunity to expand sustainable and job-intensive economic activity, whilst also making use of digital transforma-tion, which is a key enabler for reaching the Green Deal’s objective. President Von der Leyen’s action plan recognises that energy-intensive industries such as steel, chemicals and cement, are indispensable for Europe’s economy – and must therefore be decarbonized and modernized. The circular economy action plan will focus on the reutilization of materials before recycling, and will en-courage businesses to choose reusable, durable, and repairable products.
The Green Deal also promotes access to sustainable raw materials, as well as new forms of collaboration with industry and investments in strategic value chains. The construction sector is also to be revamped, with the enforcement of legislation related to the energy performance of buildings and renovations of old buildings to make them more energy efficient. Transportation, which accounts for 25% of the EU GHG emissions, will be transformed. More road freight is to be carried out by inland waterways or rail, and the price of transport must reflect its impact on health and the environments. Transport should also become drastically less polluting, and the availability of recharging and refuel-ling stations should increase in five years’ time, to keep up with the increase in zero and low-emissions vehicles. The plans for the agricultural sector involve the reduction of use and risk of chemical pesticides, as well as the stimulation of sustainable and healthy and affordable food consumption. The Green Deal also outlines a strategy preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity, which includes, amongst other things, forest preservation and restoration, and a sustainable blue economy. These ambitious plans require significant invest-ment, for which the Commission will present a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, with 30% of the EUR 650 billion earmarked under the InvestEU being channelled towards fighting climate change. In addition, the Commission is also invested in boosting relevant knowledge, skills and changing attitudes on climate change in developing countries.
On the second pillar, The EU as a global leader, the Green Deal will strive to promote and implement ambitious environmental, climate and energy policies across the world. This includes ensuring that the Paris agreement remains an indispensable framework for tackling climate change. The emphasis of the EU will be on its immediate neighbours, whilst striving to form alliances and part-nerships with other likeminded countries in other regions. The Green Deal also refers to trade policy as a support tool for the EU’s ecological transition – one of the ambitions of the Deal is to make sure that respecting the Paris Agreements is a part of all future comprehensive trade agreements, as well as removing non-tariff barriers in the renewable energy sector. The EU is also committed to involving the public and all stakeholders in the discussions for the future of climate actions, as game-changing policies only work if citizens are fully
in-194 European trade policy and a sustainable world: facing the challenges ahead
volved in designing them. The European Climate Pact also outlines three ways to engage with the public on climate action: first, the sharing of information with the public; second, making sure the public have virtual and real platforms to express their views; and third, facilitating grassroots initiatives on climate change and environmental protection.
In parallel, the EU and 16 other members of the WTO were negotiating the Environmental Goods Agreement, which aims at removing barriers to trade in products that are crucial for environmental protection and climate change miti-gation (European Commission, 2016b). Although the negotiations have been halted since December 2016, the EU still has an interest in such agreement, as it would boost trade in “green goods”, which would only be beneficial to-wards the sustainable future goals of the community. As with other major trade agreements involving the EU, a SIA was carried out. It was estimated that the EGA would lead to a reduction in the price of environmental goods and also a reduction of CO2 emissions as a result of greater availability of such goods (De-velopment Solutions, 2016).
The recent reality reminded us that one must always bear in mind that un-foreseen major events may always threaten the development progress made in recent years, notably in terms of climate change or poverty reduction. The looming threat of the coronavirus in the early months of 2020 developed into a pandemic that many of us were yet to experience. Amid this crisis, some of the efforts of the EU in the fight against climate change will face additional complexities. Further down the line, the main difficulty will be making sure that the economic recovery measures meet the Paris Agreement goals (Keating, 2020). Despite the challenges that the COVID-19 is posing on climate change efforts, the fact is that the current measures of lockdown that most countries in the EU – and the world – are imposing are having a positive, non-negligible impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The reduced traffic and other activities have caused several gases, in particular nitrogen dioxide, to decrease as much as 50% in EU countries compared to the same period in 2019 (European Envi-ronment Agency, 2020).
In addition to climate change, the coronavirus is expected to severely disrupt the global economy. Vos, Martin and Laborde (2020) used a global general equi-librium model to calculate the poverty impacts at the household level. Their computations analysed the macroeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 under several assumptions about transmission channels (decreases in labour produc-tivity, total factor productivity or trade shocks). Depending on the simulation parameters, global poverty would increase by 14 million people (in the total factor productivity scenario). But this number would increase to 22 million, if trade channels were disrupted, as many developing countries are dependent on trade for their economic prosperity.
As in the past, the EU will strive to play a leading role in the global struggle to reduce the negative consequences of the coronavirus pandemic worldwide.
The EU trade policy has been and will continue to be at the forefront of our common European efforts to promote sustainable development throughout the world. This article has summarised some of the key instruments and a number
195 of concrete metrics and achievements that have been put forward by the Eu-ropean Commission in recent years. Over several decades, the EU trade policy has made a tangible contribution to well-being, jobs, wages and sustainable development both in Europe and in our trading partners. Building on our past efforts, the current EU policy priorities put sustainable development at the cen-tre of the current mandate of the European Commission as part of the Green Deal initiatives, many of them poised to have a direct or indirect impact on EU trade patterns and future policy priorities.