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Source: Small Island Developing States

A panel, convened during the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade and Environment Week, discussed the impact of increased digital trade on the climate footprint, the role that e-commerce can play in driving the green economic recovery from COVID-19 while addressing climate change, and the contribution that the WTO can make to support such recovery.

The event was co-organized by Canada and France, in partnership with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

Geneviève Férone-Creuzet, Vice-President, The Shift Project, moderated the discussion.

George Kamiya, Analyst, International Energy Agency (IEA), presented on IEA’s research on the environmental impact of digital technologies. He outlined direct and indirect effects of digital technologies on climate change, noting that direct energy use and emissions from digital technologies have been flat over the past decade. Kamiya noted the complexity of the effects of digitalization on sectors, and stressed the need for strong climate policies to ensure digital technologies are applied to reduce emissions. He emphasized the critical role of innovation to decarbonize long-distance transport.

Joby Carlson, Director, Strategic Initiatives, Walmart, explained the company’s sustainability strategy, which includes a path to zero emissions by 2040, 100% renewable energy by 2035, and avoiding 1 gigaton (Gt) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across supply chains by 2030. He highlighted four ways in which omnichannel retailers can reduce emissions: a) encouraging in-store pickup; b) minimizing total customer travel; c) reducing dedicated customer trips; and d) shipping from local stores.

Kate Karn, Public Policy Manager, Mastercard, explained some of the company’s sustainability actions, such as an initiative to give Mastercard issuers the possibility to enable cardholders to monitor the carbon footprint of their purchases. Among trade policy priorities, she highlighted new rules on digital trade, in particular free flow of data and the elimination of data localization requirements, as well as an agreement on environmental goods.

From a development perspective, Alice Tipping, Lead, Fisheries, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), highlighted considerations around trade policy decisions that developing countries may face in terms of importing or domestically producing goods, services, and technology for renewable energy. She said carbon labeling may pose challenges to developing countries, and stressed the need for coherence and inclusiveness in the development of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS). [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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