The battle against climate change is eagerly fought on many fronts. There are many ways of tackling the issue and promoting green living. One of the more popular approaches is to look at the promotion of green products and sustainable resources.
The more sustainable and environmentally friendly our products, the less damage we inflict onto the planet. For many, this means greater trade in green ideas and solutions with a greater focus on sustainable products being trading between nations. The problem is that there are many barriers in the way.
The ideals of increased access and sustainability are great, but the devil is in the details. With greater effect to protect goods for sustainable living, there is a chance.
A crucial ally in the world of trading sustainable living products is the SETI Alliance. This group launched in 2012 as part of the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development. The Alliance comprises of some members, and the lists are growing by the year.
There are some obvious names seen here, with many national green energy companies like Green Energy Finland. There are also other big names like Siemens and General Electric.
The main aim here is to ensure that sustainable living goods are more readily available and to promote green technologies. This is achievable through both intergovernmental or multisectoral trade agreement. The ideal outcome here is a rise in free trade in open markets and growth in green products.
It is this issue of free trade that is the problem here.
Free trade agreements are a controversial subject in many countries. They began in North America between Canada, Mexico and the US in 1994 as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement. This is why the idea of the Sustainable Energy Trade Agreements is so important.
This idea was originally proposed back in 2011, just before the creation of the SETI Alliance. The thought process here was that they would work alongside other incentives for green energy and tech. SETAs could be as beneficial for green products and trade as tax credits and feed-in tariffs.
The barriers come with the limits that governments can impose on imports and goods from other countries. There can be concerns about conflicting technical standards or risk to domestic industries.
A green solution from another country may be a blessing on a global scale if it can change energy use or protect the planet. However, it could have an impact on another domestic industry and pose some risks. Consumers can see one of the best examples of this with the rise of cheap solar panels from China.
The problem in America was that these Chinese firms were receiving subsidies for affordable green products. Meanwhile, American firms and developers were suffering. The call here was for the government to place a duty on the Chinese imports and favor domestic production instead.
On the other hand, there are those that see the benefits of Sustainable Energy Trade Agreements in bringing countries together.
Like-minded nations could maintain an open market for shared ideas and products via a stand-alone plurilateral agreement. The US, China, 28 EU member states launched negotiations into the elimination of global tariffs on sustainable living goods.
A reduction of taxes could speed up the flow of goods to areas that desperately need them. There is a clear understanding that the need for green energy solution is rising and tariff reductions are the best first step in clearing a path.
Another hurdle is the idea of what products should be exempt from tariffs and part of these green trade agreements.
Renewable energy products and systems are crucial in fighting back for a greener planet. The rise in the use of solar power and installations of solar systems in the US show the importance of renewable energy these days.
To accomplish this and meet demands, there has to be a rise in production and trade of systems and materials. There is no doubt that these must-have systems are at the top of the list for many countries.
However, there is debate over what should join them. Which products are necessary and which are not? Where do you draw the line on what to bring in at a cheaper rate through free trade agreement? As on 2014, the list had expanded to 54 products. There are concerns over the speed of expansion for the future.
This is nothing new when it comes to free trade agreements. There have been hurdles before with free trade agreements on information technology products. It became so difficult for organizations to agree on which product to add that it was easier to freeze the list.ih
The problem here was that the list froze on the standard for 1996. That is two decades of products and development, like smartphones and tablets, which are not part of this discussion. The concern, therefore, is that the list of green products will see a similar freeze.
We will continue to see the same basic elements, like wind turbines and solar panels traded with ease. At the same time, any impressive new designs may struggle to reach their audience.
Are SEPAs For Free Trade Enough For Green Energy And Sustainable Products?
It is easy to question whether this approach will make enough of a difference when tackling climate change. There are some that argue that there is much more needs to do. They feel it is not sufficient to impose simple tariff reductions and speed up the trading process.
It is not just tariffs that pose a threat to the trade in these goods. Other issues of standards and regulations need addressing too. Key issues highlighted are the promotion of sustainable government purchase, sustainable global supply chains, and intellectual property regimes.
Then there is the matter of critical mass. The critical mass of world trade is 90%. This means tariff cuts for sustainable living products would roll out to all 160 members because the market is strong enough. Those that agreed on the concept of the SEPAs in 2014 made up 86%.
With all of this combined, there is no doubt that these Sustainable Energy Trade Agreements face an uphill struggle. Sustainable living needs a wider approach for real progress to make.