Trade is inextricably linked to the threat of climate change, one of the most urgent issues facing sustainable development. While growth in trade-related activities can contribute to climate change, trade policy can also be part of the solution. Likewise, climate-related policies may have positive or negative impacts on trade. Against this background, policymakers face the challenge of better understanding these interlinkages, so as to be able to ensure that trade and climate policies are mutually supportive.


ICTSD’s work on sustainable energy is a response to the positive role such technologies can play in addressing climate change. With the recent surge in climate-related WTO trade disputes and the fact that regional trade agreements have begun to include specific provisions for sustainable energy, it is clear that there is a need for further research and dialogue to ensure policymakers are fully informed.


ICTSD is also closely engaged in climate change governance activities. In an increasingly complex policy landscape where a variety of sub-national, national, and regional efforts are geared toward addressing climate change, there are concerns that trade opportunities will be hampered by climate polices adopted at the UNFCCC and beyond. ICTSD actively supports the trade- and climate communities in their efforts to better understand these interlinkages by offering concrete proposals for maximising synergies.


One area where ICTSD has been particularly active is its efforts to improve markets for clean energy technologies using sustainable energy trade initiatives (SETIs). The organisation’s work on this issue has advanced to the point that a stakeholder coalition, the SETI Alliance, has been founded to advance this initiative. ICTSD is also collaborating on the Carbon CAP, a broad research project aimed at proposing policies that will effectively address embedded carbon through consumption-based policies.


Development and access to climate technologies are essential for climate mitigation and adaptation. ICTSD’s work aims to improve understanding on the diffusion and transfer of climate technologies, including intellectual property rights, through empirical and policy-oriented research. This involves identifying effective mechanisms and incentives for enhanced technology transfer, obstacles, and potential points of intervention, including possible measures under the UNFCCC.