We can invest in planetary security by better balancing trade treaties.
Call for Renewable Energy – Across the spectrum, in business, science, non-profits, and in the grassroots, people are calling for renewable energy, not only the energy itself, but policy to protect green initiatives. The challenge is not technology; dedicated researchers continue to make excellent gains. We need targeted policy to prevent climate goals from being circumvented by our system of growth economics. The good news — this type of policy is being taken next week to the most important climate meeting yet, Paris 2015, COP 21! The next couple paragraphs give the background.
Care for Our Common Home — Pope Francis released his famous Encyclical — On Care for our Common Home – in June 2015 as a warning to the economics of endless growth and a call to remember the finite nature of the earth. With urgency he speaks for policies that decrease greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewable sources in Article 26. Shortly after the release of the Encyclical in 2015, new commitments from leaders of China and Germany raised the conversation; Chancellor Angela Merkel committed Germany to binding targets to be off non-renewables by 2050; China pledged to cap emissions by 2030. In August, the US shared standards to limit carbon pollution, and this week, Canada committed for the first time to cap the tar sands emissions while the rest of the world sighed in relief. Actionable, enforced targets are what matters. It seems there are growing steps in that direction. Though the challenge to climate transition is great, the urgency and generational reward is much greater. But what we need now, is a leap!
Barriers to Climate Progress – Many researchers, leaders, and advocates are building a new consensus on what to do about climate change. Naomi Klein’s work has helped greatly to popularize this understanding. Climate emissions can only be significantly diminished by addressing problems of structure in the global economy. According to Maude Barlow, trade, water and social justice expert, there are 3200 ISDS trade treaties across the globe. These treaties no longer focus on goods but instead: regulatory capacity of governments. They supersede the decisions of national courts and allow corporations to pollute by using ISDS to frame governmental regulation, of any type, as discriminatory if they decrease profit. Seventy percent of ISDS cases launched in the past have been against a nation’s environmental policies. Of course, this is wrong.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Creating space in our economic system for new trade solutions that impact climate is fundamental to our survival.
How Trade Deals Have Blocked Clean Energy Initiatives – From the Ontario Green Energy Initiative (WTO vs. Canada) to a fracking moratorium (Lone Pine vs. Canada) to nuclear power (Vattenfal vs Germany), many ISDS cases have involved energy rules. Some trade suits won by corporations have prevented changes to renewable energy, but cases do not have to be won to cause this effect. Vattenfall, a Swedish energy company, launched a 1.9 billion ISDS case against Germany for imposing stricter standards on coal. Germany removed additional environmental requirements and decided to pay settlement fees to the company to avoid the high expenses of ISDS arbitration. Coal production resumed as it was. Corporations are able to charge nations for unpredictable amounts. Russia was ordered to pay 50 billion dollars for the most expensive ISDS case ruling recorded. Gus Van Harten, international trade policy expert of Osgoode Hall law school says that the threat of unknown financial liability with ISDS is enough to prevent nations to take climate change action. ISDS allows any multinational corporation or foreign national to push back on new carbon agreements. Hmmm…
Protecting the Climate at COP 21 – Now here comes the good news: Gus Van Harten has created a carve-out for past and future ISDS trade deals that can be applied through a Paris multilateral agreement on climate change, AND the European parliament has adopted it. This trade carve-out will create a legal safeguard for countries to enact climate progress targets free of ISDS threat. According to Van Harten, if embraced, the legal text would create a “greater certainty, no investor state dispute settlement tribunal, arbitrator, body, or process has jurisdiction over any dispute related to the scope or application” of a climate treaty. Makes a lot of practical sense.
Hope for Change – This kind of economic restructuring gives me great hope! Global economic policy is where climate norms are created and enforced. Creating space in our economic system for new trade solutions that impact climate is fundamental to our survival. As the Pope said in June, Article 187, “profit cannot be the sole criterion being taken into account, and that, when significant new information comes to light, a reassessment should be made, with the involvement of all interested parties.” The EU parliament adopting this carve-out for climate change means the conversation is deepening. If this frame is put into action at COP 21, there will be reason to take heart. It will mark the beginning of working on the foundational problem. We should move swiftly towards resolution and greater balance in trade policy for all the children now and the wee ones coming. Sending good trade wishes to COP 21.