Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Free trade can benefit environment

22.05.2002


With the help of biologists and in a radical reversal of roles, the environment could exploit free trade. But with the World Trade Organisation`s legitimacy being challenged as never before, this opportunity is at risk.



"In the prevailing climate, trade protectionism gets equated with environmental protection, free trade with freedom to plunder", says Dr Douglas Yu at the University of East Anglia`s School of Biological Sciences. "But the WTO could actually drive fundamental environmental reform", he says.

In a paper to be published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution in June, Dr Yu and co-authors Prof William Sutherland and Prof Colin Clark challenge biologists to help with the greening of the WTO. "Biologists are notably absent in this debate, but as shown in a high profile legal battle over sea turtles between the US and the WTO, their expertise can be crucial to helping resolve conflicts between trade and the environment", says Dr Yu.


Current public perception is that free trade is harmful to environmental protection. The demonstrations at the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle showed this, and standard economic theory backs it up. Trade exacerbates the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, such as when fish from countries with an unregulated fishery are exported to those with fishery regulations. This is why environmental organisations have called for the WTO to allow `green protectionism`1, that is, the ability to deter imports of unsustainably exploited natural resources.

But according to the authors, government efforts to promote domestic industries with outright subsidies are even more harmful to the environment. For example, when fisheries started to decline, subsidies were introduced to relieve the industry`s economic problems. But this increased the number of fishermen and depleted stocks even further. Today, excess fishing capacity exists worldwide, leaving many formerly productive fisheries in collapse.

Now economists suggest that had the industry been left to find its own balance, fish populations would not have been exploited to extinction. Catch rates would have declined to such low levels that further fishing became unprofitable.

There are many examples of perverse subsidies that are both costly to the taxpayer and cause environmental damage. But the beneficiaries such as fishermen and farmers are politically powerful, and the subsidies live on despite repeated attempts to kill them off. "Just look at this month`s US farm bill. It completely reverses the 1996 `Freedom to Farm Act` that was meant to wean farmers off payments." says Dr. Yu.

The WTO has clear rules for identifying and removing perverse subsidies but they have not been applied. This might now change. The latest Doha Round of WTO negotiations explicitly targets fisheries subsidies and agricultural export subsidies, which hurt developing world farmers. Biologists can contribute to the Doha Round by calculating the environmental effects of different scenarios for reducing subsidies in agriculture, forestry, energy, mining, and especially fishing.

"If applied, WTO rules on subsidies could provide a way to reduce or remove some environmentally pernicious public policies", says Dr Yu. "Only negotiations at the level of the WTO are likely to have an impact. Eliminating perverse subsidies of all kinds could yield great economic benefits, both in terms of reducing overexploitation and stemming the waste of taxpayers` money", he says.

Mary Pallister | alphagalileo

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>