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.

Boris Johnson walking with briefcase with illustration of lorries and ships in the background

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.  

Boris Johnson walking with briefcase with illustration of lorries and ships in the background
A contract waiting to be signed

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. 

A contract waiting to be signed

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.  

Trade and environment post-Brexit

Friends of the Earth is campaigning for:

  • The UK to be an international leader on climate change and champion the need for trade rules to change to better support climate action.
  • The UK to keep working with our European and international neighbours on our joint environmental challenges.
  • An ambitious published UK trade policy which supports rather than hinders climate action.
  • No trade deals with nations not implementing commitments under the Paris Agreement.
  • More government action to stop UK businesses damaging the environment or abusing human rights abroad. 

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.

photo of lambs in field with blue sky

Our campaign on Brexit

We campaigned to make sure our environmental laws didn't fall through the gaps when the UK left the European Union.

But our environment is still at risk. Outside of the EU, the UK government is reviewing environmental laws on everything from nature protections to food standards, and making new trade deals that will impact our environment. 

So we're still working to make sure the new Environment Act leads to real improvements in nature, and that upcoming changes to laws lead to protections that are stronger, not weaker. And we’re calling for a UK trade policy that puts the environment first.

photo of the South Downs, UK
aerial photo of countryside around Brocton, UK

Who we work with

Friends of the Earth is a member of the Trade Justice Movement, a UK coalition of nearly 60 civil society organisations calling for trade rules that work for people and planet.  

Members include trade unions, aid agencies, environment and human rights campaigns, Fair Trade organisations and consumer groups. 

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

Greener UK is a coalition of environmental groups working together to ensure that our environment is improved, not damaged, now the UK has left the EU.

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

aerial photo of countryside around Brocton, UK