Greening global trade: A reform agenda for a sustainable future

In a new video, Yale’s Daniel C. Esty discusses how changes to the global trade system can help achieve a sustainable future.

For several years, Yale’s Daniel C. Esty has argued that a reformed global trade system that prioritizes environmental concerns while also promoting growth offers one of the best opportunities to achieve a more sustainable future.

Since 2021, Esty has co-led an ambitious coalition that is trying to achieve just that.

The Remaking Global Trade for a Sustainable Future Project — a joint initiative of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and the University of the West Indies — is re-examining the foundations of international trade policy with the goal of creating a system that is better aligned with the global commitments to climate change action reflected in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

For his part, Esty took a public service leave from Yale to help the World Trade Organization develop a reform agenda.

Last year, the Remaking Global Trade Project released its agenda, or roadmap, to achieve this restructured international system. Its guiding principles emerged from a series of 10 workshops, held in cities around the world, that delved into a wide range of sustainability-related issues, including steps needed to achieve a clean energy future, more sustainable food and agricultural systems, the urgent need to promote oceans protection, and how to promote a “circular economy” that keeps more resources and materials in use for as long as possible.

In a new video, Esty, the Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale School of the Environment and Yale Law School, discusses what it will take to convene global leaders to meet the urgent environmental threats facing the planet, the importance of including voices that are often absent from these conversations, and how the global trade system can be fit for service in the 21st century.

For the first time ever trade is being seen as a critical policy lever that needs to be pulled to really drive climate change progess at speed and scale,” Esty said.

The Remaking Global Trade for a Sustainable Future Project has been supported by Yale Planetary Solutions, a university-wide initiative aimed at developing practical responses that will have an impact on Earth’s global crises such as climate, biodiversity, and the disruption of biogeochemical cycles.

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