Sunday, 31 January 2021
Ministers confused over contradictions between trade and climate change policies
Letter sent to The Guardian newspaper: International trade secretary Liz Truss was all over the airwaves on Sunday selling the merits of her advanced plans to join the 11-nation trans-Pacific partnership (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/30/uk-to-apply-to-join-free-trade-pact-with-nations-on-other-side-of-world) Meanwhile, global climate change conference ( COP26) President Alok Sharma, the former business secretary, has himself been pressing the UK case for wide-ranging initiatives to address the looming problems of climate change, most recently his video speech to the World Economic Forum business 'virtual Davos 2021' conference last Friday on “'Mobilizing Climate Action (“Race to Zero Breakthroughs launched,, 29 Jan.;https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/race-to-zero-breakthroughs-launched) But there is a clear disconnect between Truss and Sharma, and a lack of joined up government thinking. The media to promote the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)(https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-applies-to-join-huge-pacific-free-trade-area-cptpp) makes much of the benefits to UK exports of eliminating tariffs to these Pacific rim nations, stressing that UK trade with the group has been growing by 8% a year since 2016, and was worth was worth £111 billion in 2019. But the physical exports to such countries many thousands of miles away, whether by cargo plane or ship, with have a significant carbon footprint, something Ms Truss does not mention at all. Indeed, international shipping is a significant contributor to global carbon emissions, that barely receives any political or media attention. To be sure the CPTPP deal’s modern digital trade rules will also allow data to flow freely between members, which will not incur a negative carbon credit. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is reported to have said of the proposed CPTPP deal that it “demonstrates our ambition to do business all over the world and be an enthusiastic champion of global free trade.” But how is this aim compatible with his also stated aim for the UK be a global leading light in promoting sustainable measures to combat climate change?