Food Systems Podcast 46
In discussion with Geneviève Pons
Wednesday, Feb 22, 2023
In this episode, we discuss with Geneviève Pons, the Chief Executive and Vice Chair of Europe Jacques Delors, the recently published paper she co-authored with Pascal Lamy on the geopolitics of the Green Deal. In particular, this examines the relationship between the environment and international trade.
Where, following COP27 and COP15, do you assess we are globally in reconciling the environment with international trade?
The issue is to put trade at the service of the environment. The World Trade Organization published its annual report at COP 27. This explained the complexity of the relationship and set out ways for trade to help fight climate change.
However, the word ‘climate’ is not in the WTO’s founding text and there are still five members who do not want to discuss the subject. As the WTO is a member-driven organisation, progress on trade and climate cannot be made by a totality of members, but it can by groups of countries. A coalition of ministers of trade for climate was launched in Davos in January. Also, the WTO’s Appellate Body has placed more value on the environment than trade in certain circumstances, accepting trade discrimination to protect natural resources. Fishing subsidies is one example.
Why do you believe the EU is well placed to play a leadership role in making the case for measures to better align the environment and climate with trade?
There are two main reasons. The first is the EU has high environmental and climate ambitions. MEPs were elected at the last European Parliament elections with a clear mandate for a better environment and to fight climate change. Ursula von der Leyen, when being approved by MEPs as Commission President, tabled the idea of the Green Deal. Since then, we have adopted most of the proposals that will lead to climate neutrality by 2050. Ambition is becoming reality.
Secondly, we are the biggest internal market in the world. When we adopt a standard, it makes a difference. Take chemical production in Europe. You cannot sell a chemical that does not respect our standards, even if it is produced elsewhere. This big market makes us able to lead by our rules and show the way by our ambition.
Do you think the EU has been too cautious in projecting multilaterally its ambition to reconcile the environment, climate and trade?
We cannot act in isolation. We need a bilateral dialogue with the US and our biggest partners like China and India. We need to be understood by developing countries, be they small or big. We have to explain what we intend to do. Their main problem is how to cope with this. How to decarbonise their production? The EU has to give very practical answers and find common ground for the sake of our common good, which is the climate and biodiversity.
We are doing this with Mozambique, for instance, helping them to produce aluminium with less carbon intensive electricity so they will not have to pay an EU carbon border adjustment tax.
What single macro-level recommendation would enable the EU to be even more effective in reconciling trade with environment and climate considerations in multilateral diplomacy?
We proposed this in 2020 in the OECD’s sustainable development commission. It is what we call a comparability forum. The US is acting through standards and subsidies. We are using carbon pricing. There are now 70 taxation or carbon pricing systems. All are different, but the aims are the same: to reduce carbon content in production and consumption. How can we compare them and avoid tensions?
This very complex question has to be handled globally by experts. The OECD recently launched the forum. We believe it should be based in a broader club including developing countries, like the WTO, with OECD participation to provide the expertise.
What are your thoughts on the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan? How compatible are they?
The IRA is good news. We need this very big economy to shift away from fossil fuels. Transformation of the US economy and society are absolutely key for the survival of humanity on this planet.
However, the means chosen are a threat to trading partners, because it is all about subsidies. This will give US companies a competitive advantage. The danger is it will attract to the US innovative companies from elsewhere in the world. We have shared our concerns with the US. At the same time, we had to react by trying to match its package and this is what we have done.
If you have found this short summary interesting, there’s lots more to hear in the full 31-minute conversation. It is available now on iTunes, Podbean or Spotify or on this website.
Geneviève Pons was in charge of environmental and climate matters in Mr. Jacques Delors’ Cabinet during his last mandates as...see more President of the European Commission (EC) (1991-1995). She is an Honorary Director of the EC where she held several management positions before becoming Director of the ILO’s Legal Service in 2013, and Director of the WWF’s European Office in 2015. From November 2017, she heads Europe Jacques Delors, the latest in the family of think tanks carrying on Jacques Delors’ European vision. She is a graduate from Sciences Po Paris, the Sorbonne, and ENA. Geneviève is considered by Politico as one of the most influential women in Brussels, notably in the field of environment. She is a member of the EU Mission: Restore our Ocean and Waters, chaired by Pascal Lamy. She is co-chair with Pascal Lamy of the Antarctica2020 coalition, which aims to protect vast marine areas around Antarctica. She is also co-chair with Sébastien Treyer (IDDRI) of Ifremer Stakeholders Committee. Geneviève Pons has published a series of papers, notably on trade and the environment. She is also Vice President of Transparency International Europe, and a member of the jury for the European Book Prize. Geneviève Pons is a Knight of the Legion of Honour. More information Website – www.institutdelors.eu/en/