Government subsidies hit environment, says ex-WTO boss

Perverse government subsidies are contributing to the plundering of the world's environment, with collapsing fish stocks among the biggest problems, said Mike Moore, former head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Among the worst-hit regions are waters off Africa which draw fishing fleets from east Asia, a trend aided by incentives such as tax deductions for fuel, Moore, a former prime minister of New Zealand, told the United Nations Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative conference in Melbourne.

"There’s no incentive to be sustainable. And frequently the money doesn’t even make it to the (African) country because it’s cheaper to put in a bank in Switzerland for the politicians," Moore said.

Moore also railed against big retailers counting "food miles" to curb carbon emissions from transport by encouraging consumers to opt for local produce. Farmers from Kenya, for instance, would suffer, he said.

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