Policy Brief

A Proposed G20 Initiative for the International Trade and Investment Regimes on Sustainable Development and Climate Change

By Daniel C. Esty, 
April 2016
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Sustainability moved decisively towards being a core value of the global community in 2015. In September, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that provide depth and clarity to the international community’s ambitions for economic, environmental, and social progress over the next 15 years. In addition, 195 countries came together in Paris in December and concluded a new climate change accord that lifts the trajectory of the global response to the build-up of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere and commits the nations of the world to significant actions to reduce the threat of climate change. The breadth and depth of these commitments to make sustainability a fundamental element of the global community’s “collective journey” creates both challenges and opportunities for the international trade and investment regimes.

As a critical forum for global economic governance, the G20 (with strong leadership from China as the host nation for the 2016 G20 Summit) could provide important direction to the World Trade Organization (WTO), countries engaged in regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements, and managers of  both public and private banks and funds that seek to promote economic development on the importance of conducting their activities in a manner that reinforces the SDGs and the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. This paper offers an array of ideas on how to weave the concept of sustainability into the fabric of international cooperation on trade, investment, and development – including the institutions of global economic governance.


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