Trade policies should be integrated into climate action, says WTO director-general

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The director-general of the World Trade Organization has discussed the importance of trade being a key element of ongoing discussions and activities around climate change.

Trade policies should be an integral part of global initiatives on climate change, the director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has said.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was speaking at the recent Africa Adaptation Summit in Rotterdam, which was organized by the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA). The aim of the event was to "lay the foundation for an adaptation breakthrough for Africa" at the forthcoming COP27 climate change conference, which will take place in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6th to 18th.

Ms Okonjo-Iweala pointed out that Africa already faces a "tremendous amount of costs" with respect to adaptations that are increasingly becoming necessary due to climate change.

"Through trade, we can increase the return on investment and increase the resources available to African governments for adaptation," she added.

Research has suggested Africa will be more severely affected by shifts in climatic conditions than any other continent. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said African nations are home to 80 percent of the world's most at-risk populations.

Some studies have estimated that climate change could cause crop productivity growth to shrink by a third across the African continent, leading to annual GDP losses of 3.8% by 2060.

Strong trade relationships can help to mitigate these risks, Ms Okonjo-Iweala said, delivering benefits including better access to more resilient varieties of crops, irrigation technologies and water storage systems.

Lower trade costs could also help to offset the financial consequences of climate change in low-income countries.

"This is where the WTO plays a role," the director-general said. "At COP27, along with climate finance issues, we need to give focus to trade and investment facilitation for the just climate transformation that we need."

The Africa Adaptation Summit also saw Ms Okonjo-Iweala and GCA chief executive officer Patrick Verkooijen sign a memorandum of understanding between their respective organizations to increase collaboration on trade and adaptation efforts in the countries and regions most exposed to the effects of climate change.