Sustainable development:
Economy and the environment

WTO, UNEP and sustainable development bodies cannot afford to work in isolation.

Pascal Lamy

Pascal Lamy, Director-General World Trade Organization

Pascal Lamy, Trade Commissioner of the European Union from 1999 to 2004, took office as the fifth Director-General of the WTO on 1 September 2005 for a four-year term.

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WTO's Director-General on World Environment Day 2007

Let World Environment Day remind us of the environmental potential of the Doha Round.

As we mark this year's World Environment Day, we must seriously reflect on mankind's ecological fooprint on the planet. The World Wildlife Fund For Nature tells us that since 1980 our biological footprint has exceeded the earth's biocapacity. In other words, people are turning resources into waste faster than the Earth can turn waste back into resources - and this by about 25%. Our carbon dioxide footprint from the use of fossil fuels has been the fastest growing component of our ecological footprint, increasing more than nine-fold, we are told, from 1961 to 2003.

This year, I attended UNEP's Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, in which UNEP unveiled its Global Environmental Outlook for 2007. I was struck by the strong relationship that the GEO establishes between the health of our ecosystem, human well-being and economic development. GEO warns that if problems such as climate change and declining biodiversity are left untackled, they would affect human health and damage the natural resource base on which economic growth is premised.

But what can international trade do to help address these problems? My main message in Nairobi was that international institutions must join hands to complement each other's policies. The WTO, UNEP and other international organizations cannot afford to work in isolation. Trade, no doubt, can lead to a more efficient allocation of resources - natural and otherwise - across our planet. In fact, the 2006 Human Development Report provided an extremely potent example of how it can do so. We were told that if a country such as Egypt were to grow a volume of cereals equivalent to its national imports, it would use up 1/6th of Lake Nasser, its Aswan Dam reservoir. An illuminating example of how trade contributes to conservation without us even realizing. However, for trade to deliver a more efficient allocation of resources, it must be accompanied by an appropriate set of policies. Hence my reach-out to UNEP earlier this year for a continued pooling of our expertise and better synchronization of our policies.

In Nairobi, I called upon the environmental community to join hands with the trade community in bringing the environmental chapter of the Doha Round of trade negotiations to a successful conclusion. In the Doha Round, WTO members agreed to launch environmental negotiations for the first time in the history of a multilateral trade round. Credit for the launch of these negotiations must also go, of course, to civil society for its repeated calls for greater harmony between trade and the environment.

The Doha Round's environmental chapter promises to deliver greater mutual supportiveness between WTO rules and multilateral environmental agreements; to reduce environmentally harmful fisheries subsidies; and to open trade in the kinds of goods and services that could contribute to protecting our environment. These include air filters and solar panels that could help us tackle climate change. I ask that we mark 2007 by bringing this chapter to a successful conclusion. If we succeed in these negotiations, we would strengthen the resolve of governments to address environmental problems, and to gradually take on more difficult challenges, such as energy policy. But if we fail, we would empower all those who believe that economic growth must proceed unchecked; that it need not take account of other policies. Let the World Environment Day serve as a reminder of the environmental potential of the Doha Round.