New briefing outlines incompatibility of ‘free trade’ deals and dealing with climate change
A new briefing by campaign group Global Justice Now during the Paris climate talks outlines five reasons why controversial trade deals being promoted by the EU would make it much more difficult to deal with the threat of climate change, regardless of the outcome of the UN talks.
The briefing is being released the week after Wikileaks put out a series of secret documents from the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) which outlined proposals that would make it more difficult for governments to pursue policies to promote renewable energy without being potentially sued by corporations.
The well documented threat that the trade deals present to action on climate change appears to have prompted a decision in the European Commission to avoid mention of trade at the UN climate talks in Paris. A document that was presented by the European Commission's climate secretariat (DG Clima) to the trade policy committee of the EU governments was leaked to campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory, and showed that the EU intends to go against any mention of trade or trade related issues in an agreement at COP21. This position contradicts a proposal from the European Parliament to safeguard climate policy from investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).
Nick Dearden, the director of Global Justice Now said:
“Free trade deals like TTIP and CETA pose an enormous threat to our ability to address the climate crisis. Governments need to have a wide range of policy mechanisms that would enable us to decarbonize our economies, but these trade deals would grant the fossil fuel sector a wide range of powers to inhibit or even prevent governments from pursuing such policies. The fact the European Commission wants to ensure that there is no mention of trade or trade-related issues in the UN climate talks belies the fact that they know very well about the disastrous climate impacts of these trade deals, but they are pushing ahead regardless. European citizens deserve trade policies that aren’t being written solely for the benefit of corporate interests and that don’t trash the climate.”
Kenneth Haar, a researcher and campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory said:
"The leaked document shows the EU priorities pretty clearly. There is no will to safeguard clean energy policies from trade deals. And it adds insult to injury that this is made so abundantly clear at COP21 when the European Parliament has expressed its concern so clearly."
The five reasons that the briefing outlines for the trade deals being terrible for the climate are:
1. Putting trade before the environment: The agreements promote the flow of goods and services around the world, regardless of the social and environmental consequences. More trade means more shipping, more lorries and more aviation, due to increased volumes of freight.
2. Letting corporations challenge environmental regulation: The ISDS system creates secret tribunals in which foreign investors can sue governments for adopting policies that have the potential to reduce their profits. In other treaties, ISDS has already been used to protect the interests of big oil, gas and coal companies on numerous occasions.
3. Helping corporations shape our environmental laws: At the core of TTIP and CETA is the concept of ‘regulatory cooperation’. Many regulatory standards are seen as ‘trade barriers’ by businesses, placing ‘unnecessary burdens’ on their ability to export. But many of these regulations are important and democratic ways of managing our society and protecting the environment. Any rules that threatened the bottom line of business – for example strict energy efficiency standards, or financial rules on dirty energy– could be strangled by business lobbies before they are even debated by parliaments or the public.
4. Encouraging high carbon agriculture: Agriculture is one of the main contributors to climate change, with food production estimated to cause between 19 and 29% of carbon emissions. The main culprit is agriculture practiced on an industrial scale, geared towards meat exports to Western markets, and using high levels of chemicals. The agribusiness industry sees TTIP as a key way of getting the EU to drop opposition to antibiotics, chemicals and genetically modified products in agriculture.
5. Freeing up fossil fuels: The so-called Energy Chapter of TTIP would create a ‘free market’ in fossil fuels, preventing countries from limiting exports of energy products within the TTIP or CETA zone. The chapter has been proposed by the European Commission, and sold on the basis that it would reduce European dependence on Russian gas. But unfortunately it would mean simply replacing one fossil fuel dependence with another, making the EU dependent on US oil and fracked gas and on US and Canadian tar sands oil – the most toxic fossil fuel in the world. As a result, the US and Canada would increase fracking and tar sands production.