WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala discussed the importance of free trade at Africa Adaptation Summit

Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has stressed the importance of the “free flow of trade” in Africa to help achieve the goals of global climate change.

“You cannot really talk about adaptation without considering that you need a free flow of trade. Because you might have the finances but if trade policies are not right, those who need new technologies for adaptation – if there is no free flow of goods and ideas – may not be able to use the money to get at it,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Several African leaders have criticized the lack of Western counterparts at the meeting in Rotterdam, where they pleaded for funds to help their countries adapt to global warming.

“The role of the WTO is to make sure that once countries have this financing they are not blocked by adverse trade policies that will keep them from having access to the goods and services they need to adapt,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The summit, the first to focus on helping Africa adapt to the fallout from climate change, brings together the African Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Netherlands-based Global Center on Adaptation.

“We just need countries to be very active in actually implementing what they are saying and of course, the absence of the leaders here sends some signals – you have several leaders who came all the way from Africa to participate in this conference, and they were looking forward to seeing leaders from Europe and elsewhere,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

African nations agreed at a summit in Gabon last week on a common push to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – a goal that scientists fear is increasingly elusive – at upcoming UN climate talks.

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