Thursday, September 4, 2008

Meeting on Climate change and trade ends in Mauritius

The two-day stakeholder meeting on Climate Change and Trade which started on Tuesday at Le Morne Paradis hotel ended yesterday. The meeting was held at the initiative of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development and the Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. It was attended by foreign delegates as well as Mauritian counterparts and the opportunity to participants to discuss issues related to climate change and trade which are at the forefront of debates on sustainable development.

It is important to adapt the policies regarding international and national trade and those relating to the climatic change in order to make them "mutually supportive", said the minister of Labour and Industrial Relations, Dr Vasant Bunwaree at the opening of the meeting on Tuesday. Speaking in his capacity of acting minister of Finance, he said that global warming, trade and energy prices call for a fundamental review of the assumptions on which Mauritius has planned its economic development. Hence, the country will have to double the share of renewable sources of energy to produce electricity to around 40 percent within the next decade. And this is achievable by increasing the megawatts from renewable sources and the megawatts from energy savings, he said.

The meeting brought together trade, finance and climate change negotiators and policy makers, experts as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society. They explored opportunities and challenges relating to trade and climate change, with focus on the needs of smaller developing countries, and discussed cross-cutting issues involving sectors like energy, agriculture, fisheries and tourism.

No country, said Bunwaree, can evade the impact of climatic change today. The small island states, in particular, are more concerned by the harmful effects of this change. For Mauritius, the concern is accentuated because global warming is not only a danger for its ecosystem but also to its tourism, fishing and seafood industries which have developed to become pillars of the economy. " Our fear is that the rise of the sea level affects our reefs, our lagoons our beaches and the fisheries sector" warned the minister.

He went on to underline that research has established that there are close relations between trade and climate change. They have indicated that marketing policy can impact, positively or negatively, on climate change. In fact, liberalisation in the trade of products with a low level of greenhouse gas can contribute to the reduction of gas emissions. Other arguments point out that certain measures aimed at a better management of climate change can positively affect the competitiveness of companies. Moreover, climate change can affect trade because of the damage which it can cause to infrastructures, the harbour in particular, but also to agricultural production.

Bunwaree pointed out, however, that more analytical work is necessary for a better understanding of the impact of international trade on climatic change and vice versa. It is therefore crucial, he said, to formulate and adapt trade policies and regulatory framework, "for we live in a fast changing world".

Speaking on the "Maurice, ile durable" ( Mauritius, sustainable island) project, he mentioned the initiatives taken in favour of renewable sources of energy, the objective being to double the share of renewable energy sources in the national production of electricity. The minister spoke on the projects regarding the use of solar and wind energy, the setting up of new hydroelectric stations, the increased use of bagasse, the production of ethanol.