Trade and climate How are they connected?

How does what we buy and sell impact the environment?

The impacts of the things we buy go far beyond profits or consumer satisfaction.

  • Was the person who produced that product paid properly and treated fairly?
  • Did its production, transportation or use cause pollution, deforestation, or climate breakdown?
  • Can it be reused or disposed of safely?

The decisions made by governments, businesses and individuals about which goods and services enter the country, the shops and our homes can mean the difference between sustainable, low-carbon production or increased damage to our planet.

What is a trade deal?

Trade deals are made by governments, and set out the rules for trading between different countries.

They try to make it easy for each country to let in goods and services that they need, while limiting or preventing the entry of goods and services that don’t meet standards (or are already made domestically).

The decisions governments make about the rules set in these agreements can have huge impacts on our environment.

Business and trade

Businesses don’t need to rely on government trade deals to sell things abroad. They can do it anyway – although it can be more complicated and costly without the support of a trade agreement.

Businesses can also sell products from far-off places, knowing consumers are often less concerned about issues like water overuse, unfair pay or air pollution if they happen miles away – or better yet, on another continent.

If we're to cut our global footprint as consumers, we need businesses to up their game and improve their supply chains.

Our vision for climate-friendly trade

What if we redefined the aims and benefits of trade so that they favoured breathable air in 50 years’ time over bigger economies? Or rich, diverse forests over our ability to access cheaper piles of stuff?

What if you knew that wherever you shopped or whatever you produced or bought, you wouldn’t be exploited – or be exploiting others?

Now's the time for the UK to change its trading ways, and pioneer new, climate-positive approaches.

Despite the pandemic, UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss is keen to start negotiations on a toxic trade deal with the US. Now is not the time.

Trade and environment post-Brexit

Friends of the Earth is campaigning for:

  • The UK’s environmental laws to stay as strong as, or stronger than, those in the rest of Europe – and a strong environmental watchdog to enforce them.
  • The UK to be an international leader on climate change.
  • Any farming or land subsidies to be based on public good, for example improving biodiversity or better flood protection.
  • The UK to keep working with our European and international neighbours on our joint environmental challenges.
  • A strong future relationship with the EU based on high environmental standards.
  • An ambitious future UK trade policy, developed with full scrutiny and with environmental ambition at it’s heart.
  • No trade deals with nations not implementing commitments under the Pairs Agreement.

Friends of the Earth believes passionately in democracy. We'll continue campaigning for the best environmental outcomes for all people, in the UK and abroad.

Our campaign on Brexit

Brexit wasn't a vote to cut our environmental protections. In fact, 83% of the British public think we should keep these protections. But an independent report found that environmental laws could be weakened by Brexit, leaving birds and wildlife habitats at risk. So we campaigned around Brexit to make sure our environmental laws didn't fall through the gaps.

Brexit could still have a wide-ranging impact on everything from future nature protections to food standards. Outside of the EU, the UK must also develop a new trade policy, which could mean new deals that impact on our environment.

So we're still working to make sure future protections – like the new Environment Bill – are stronger, not weaker. And we’re calling for a UK trade policy that puts the environment first.

Greener UK coalition

Friends of the Earth is part of the Greener UK coalition.

Greener UK is a coalition of environmental groups working together to ensure that the UK's environment is improved, not damaged, by leaving the EU.

It consists of RSPB, National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, WWF, Campaign for Better Transport, CPRE, Client Earth, E3G, Friends of the Earth, Green Alliance, Greenpeace, WWT and Woodland Trust.