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Source: Small Island Developing States

The Permanent Missions of Barbados and Germany in Geneva, Switzerland, with the Trade and Environment Division of the World Trade Organization (WTO), hosted a webinar to explore “forward-looking dialogue” on ideas and actions of young people to help both the environment and the economy. The first of its kind, the webinar focused on the theme, ‘The Future of Trade and Environment: Interactions with Geneva’s Youth.’

The event was held in the context of the WTO Trade and Environment Week. Gergana Kiskinova and Romain Williams, WTO, moderated the discussion.

The event began with opening remarks from two ambassadors, who provided background to the event and shared perspectives on the role of young people in international discussions taking place in Geneva.

Chad Blackman, Ambassador of Barbados to the WTO and Chair of the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE), stated that the current generation of young people will face major environmental challenges. Emphasizing challenges posed by unsustainable consumption patterns and single-use plastics, he urged young people to decide what kind of future they want and look at how they can both create and protect it. Blackman encouraged all schools in Geneva to be champions of environment and sustainability to enable Geneva’s young people to become world leaders in climate change awareness and plastic-free zones.

Bettina Waldmann, Ambassador of Germany to the WTO, recognized that this generation is “very much aware of the ecological challenges we face.” She highlighted the importance of greater engagement among trade diplomats and youth. Recognizing that global trade has an impact on our ecological system, Waldmann said the WTO “can and will be” part of the solution. She further noted the EU Plastics Strategy, which addresses plastic pollution, covering the material’s entire lifecycle.

Students from the German School of Geneva gave a presentation on the problem of plastic waste, using Barbados as an example for Europe to follow. They outlined how Barbados gradually phased out single-use plastics over time rather than introducing a complete ban overnight. The students called for efforts to halve plastic waste by 2050, and mentioned plant starch as an alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics.

Students from Institut Florimont delivered a presentation on trade in goods and the role of clean transport. While global trade in goods is made possible by multiple forms of transport, they said freight is responsible for 7% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Among solutions, the students mentioned greater investment in green transport and shifting to consumption of more local goods.

Karsten Steinfatt, WTO, applauded the realism and ambition from the students. He pointed out that the WTO takes into consideration the entire lifecycle of products, and products that come from far away do not always have a bigger carbon footprint. Steinfatt said it is necessary to inform consumers to help them choose the most environmentally friendly products. He also emphasized that the WTO does not advocate “trade for trade’s sake,” but rather prioritizes “good trade,” beneficial for the economy as well as the environment.

After some dialogue between the ambassadors and the students, Brianna Kerr, Director and Head of Impact at Kua, Sydney, Australia, delivered the last presentation. She introduced Kua – a student-created company that sources ethical coffee from smallholder farms in Uganda. Prioritizing a circular model, Kua rethinks waste by collecting customers’ coffee grounds and distributing them to local farms in the Sydney area. The company uses its profits to fund climate resilience projects in Uganda. Kerr hoped to open source Kua’s business model so that other social entrepreneurs could replicate it in their countries.

The ambassadors then offered concluding remarks. Waldmann wished to continue conversations with youth in future WTO Trade and Environment Weeks, and stated that the German Mission is ready to sponsor upcoming events.

Blackman hoped the event would become a permanent fixture of future Trade and Environment Weeks, and expressed readiness to work with young people in Geneva to take their ideas forward through a Geneva-based network of youth interested in trade and environment. [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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