The Invisible Hand's Green Thumb in the Asia-Pacific

How APEC Reconciles Trade and Climate Policies

A woman sorts through oranges in Hanoi's vegetable market, Vietnam, November 13, 2006. Adrees Latif / Reuters

Now that the dust has settled from the December Paris climate talks, where 195 governments agreed on a landmark plan for addressing global warming, the focus is shifting to the complex work of implementing those commitments. One concern is that the initiatives to fight climate change could negatively affect efforts to boost trade and economic growth, or vice versa. Although not without trade-offs, advancing these priorities can (and must), in fact, go hand-in-hand.

This is particularly true when looking back at 2015: It was one of the hottest years in recorded history and it was shaken by uncertainty in the world economy, which continues today. These events speak to the need to press ahead with viable, complementary solutions.

Out of all the groups working toward the goal of goal of finding environmentally sound trade solutions is the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Collectively, these economies are home to three billion people and account for half of global trade, 60 percent of the world’s GDP, and 60 percent of the world’s energy consumption. According to the World Resources Institute, APEC also includes seven of the top ten greenhouse gas emitters, which together produce around 70 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

World leaders of the APEC summit in Manila, November 19, 2015. Erik De Castro / Reuters

Over the last decade, APEC economies have been hard hit by global warming, losing $100 billion annually from disasters that are increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change. That is why it is especially urgent that the region delivers on its green initiatives. The region’s economic development and the rise of a middle class have created an opening for APEC economies—both developed and developing—to proceed.

For one, APEC members are working to open up the region’s trade flows in order to facilitate the exchange of renewable and energy efficient technologies. APEC has committed to reducing tariffs on 54 environmental goods—such as solar panels, wind turbines, and air pollution control equipment—to five percent or less. This is the first multilateral tariff-reduction arrangement in two decades,

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