Climate change is an urgent threat to the world as we know it. Phasing out polluting fossil energy and replacing it with clean sources of energy is the main mitigation tool available. In addition, there are other compelling reasons for scaling up clean energy- it can contribute to enhancing access to energy, reduce air pollution and health problems, generate green jobs and improve energy security. In the light of this multiple win-scenario, an interest in clean energy has surged globally.
As countries strive to accomplish the shift to a cleaner energy mix – often in combination with other policy goals such as generating domestic jobs and revenue – a range of policies and measures are being put in place, some of which have trade implications. Not only can this generate tensions, with an increasing recourse to the WTO and its dispute settlement mechanism as a consequence, but, more importantly, it sometimes hinders an optimisation of supply chains and keeps the costs of clean energy artificially high, delaying the necessary shift. In addition, questions are raised as to whether the existing rules are the most adequate to foster and support a scale up of clean energy supply and use.
Currently, there are no energy-specific rules or commitments, nor any structured discussion in the WTO on issues related to renewable energy. Yet research indicates that a supportive framework of rules as well as targeted trade reform could be vital in fostering the scale-up of renewable energy. Given the considerable potential sustainable development benefits, this avenue should be fully explored and sustained.
In this climate, the E15 Expert Group on Clean Energy Technologies and the Trade System has examined the major challenges and opportunities for promoting the use of clean energy technologies for the benefit of climate action through trade; identified constraints and possible areas for improvement in the global trade system; and developed options for the international system to support the scale-up of clean energy technologies responding to the urgency of the climate change imperative.