The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, fully drafted and pending final approval, would not only ignore climate change but would also actively fuel worsening environmental crises, according to a new report released by Sierra Club Wednesday.
As world leaders mull over a climate deal at COP21 in Paris, the report, “A Dirty Deal: How the TPP Threatens the Climate,” slams the TPP for strengthening corporate power and locking in a future dominated by dirty energy and carbon emissions that will doom the planet to disastrous global warming.
Sierra Club, which pointed out upon the release of the full TPP text last month that the failure of the deal to even include the words “climate change” hinted at the kind of corporate sell-off the trade pact promotes, laid out four key reasons why the 12-country TPP poses a huge threat to the climate.
First, the report details how the TPP would strengthen big corporate polluters’ ability to take action against government for trying to tackle climate change and promote green energy. Corporate dispute settlement mechanisms, already in force in other trade agreements but slated to be intensified through the TPP, discourage strong environmental regulations since corporations are able to sue governments in so-called “corporate courts” over public policies such as limiting mining or fossil fuel extraction.
According to the report, these measures afford corporations, including fossil fuels giants “expansive new rights to challenge climate protections” for infringing on future profits. What’s more, these corporate trials unfold in trade tribunals widely condemned as unaccountable.
There have already been over 600 such corporate challenges to over 100 government policies through similar mechanisms in other trade deals, such as NAFTA. TPP will only further expand these corporate rights, ultimately fueling climate change.
Second, the TPP will speed up natural gas exports from the U.S. by mandating that all liquified natural gas (LNG) exports to all other 11 countries involved in the deal be automatically approved. This TPP provision would not only solidify future fossil fuel dependency, but also will necessarily lead to expanding fracking, the natural gas extraction process proven to have negative environmental impacts.
Third, the TPP is set to ramp up offshoring of industry, which will lead to increased global carbon emissions. Trade unions have widely condemned the TPP for promoting the outsourcing and offshoring of local jobs and negatively impacting working conditions. But these same provisions also have clear environmental impacts because manufacturing in low-wage, resource-poor countries is more carbon-intensive than in the U.S.
In Vietnam for example, one of the countries to which the U.S. will outsource under the TPP, production releases emissions at four times the rate of the same production in the U.S., not to mention this will also mean massive increases in transportation-related carbon emissions.
As Oxfam pointed out in a new report on carbon inequality, even though developing countries are home to the fastest growing emitters of greenhouse gases, consumption habits in wealthy countries are the underlying cause fueling rising emissions. The TPP will continue to exacerbate this trend.
Finally, the TPP would set new limits on governments’ abilities to introduce strong policy to tackle climate change, such as renewable energy programs. The precedent here is the WTO cracking a successful renewable energy program in Ontario, Canada, for going against international trade rules by requiring manufacturers to hire locally. The ruling against the government for the program opened the door for foreign producers such as China to rush into the market, resulting in in job loss and a detrimental slump in the local renewable energy production.
Product labels that detail environmental information for consumers could be doomed to the same fate under the TPP, according to the report, as trade rules would outlaw any labels deemed “more trade-restrictive than necessary.” When corporate profits and “market demand” steer decisions, the climate gets sidelined.
The 12 countries participating in the TPP now have a limited time frame to approve the deal. Labor unions, consumer advocacy groups, environmental organizations, and other activists are ramping up campaigns to pressure governments to scrap the deal.
In the case of Sierra Club, the organization’s new report dubs the TPP “a panoply of threats to our climate and environment” and calls for a transformation of global trade to protect public interests and an end to turning a blind eye to climate crisis.