Tag Archives: trade

Trade Rules Undermine Transition to Clean Energy

TPP - Green Trade

(This article was cross-posted from http://sierraclub.typepad.com/compass/)

By Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Trade Reprsentative

Responsible trade can help countries develop sustainably, foster a healthy environment, and expand the use of clean energy. But when used irresponsibly, trade and investment agreements do more harm than good. They can encourage production of goods in places with weak environmental laws and policies, increase carbon pollution by expanding long-distance trade, and accelerate pressure on scarce natural resources. And, by offering corporations broad rights to challenge environmental and other public interest policies, trade and investment rules can undermine one of the most urgent challenges of our time: the transition to a clean energy future.

Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011 demonstrated the human and environmental costs of nuclear energy. With tens of thousands of individuals internally displaced, the contamination of land and water, and the dangerous health impacts associated with the nuclear meltdown, the disaster in Japan led a number of governments to turn their backs on nuclear and change course.

Explosions at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan

Explosions at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan

Germany, for example, initiated a phase-out of nuclear power after the disaster in Japan and committed to transitioning to cleaner, greener, renewable energy sources. Reasonable, right?

Not according to Vattenfall, the Swedish energy firm that is suing the government of Germany because it initiated the nuclear energy phase-out. Vattenfall claims that Germany’s decision to phase-out nuclear energy production violates its right as an investor in nuclear energy in Germany by diminishing its profits. While the case filing has not been publically released, reports show that the corporation is seeking U.S. $4.6 billion in damages from Germany.

Vattenfall is using the Energy Charter Treaty, a trade and investment treaty for the energy sector signed by 51 states, including the European Union, to bring its lawsuit to a private tribunal at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.Clearly, this case is an example of how trade and investment rules can threaten the environment and the health of communities.

As another example, just a couple of months ago, an American oil and gas firm notified Canada of its intent to launch a similarly outlandish case at the same World Bank trade tribunal used by Vattenfall. The Delaware-incorporated Lone Pine Resources noted its intent to sue Canada for $250 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) over Quebec’s moratorium on fracking — the violent process of extracting natural gas from shale rock buried deep underground. The people and government of Quebec merely wanted to have time to study the environmental impacts associated with fracking.

The firm is using the rules in NAFTA—rules similar to those that Vattenfall likely used under the Energy Charter Treaty against Germany—that give corporations the right to sue a government over nearly any law or policy that the corporation argues is hurting its profit. In the Quebec case, the firm is willing to threaten safe drinking water and the health of communities in Canada by opening the dangerous floodgates of fracking.

fracking
Governments must be able to put in place clean energy and other policies that protect communities and the environment without trade rules getting in the way. Yet, the United States is currently negotiating a new trade pact with ten other countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which would virtually replicate the same flawed rules used in the cases described above and leave the door wide open to attacks like the ones on Canada’s fracking moratorium and Germany’s nuclear phase-out.With climate disruption reaching its tipping point, the transition to a clean energy economy has never been more critical. In order for our trade system to support this transition, our elected officials must stop drafting trade pacts that empower the fossil fuel industry at the expense of communities and the environment. We can and must change course.

–Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Trade Representative

We Won’t Get Fooled Again: How Unfair Trade Threatens Texas’ Environment

Why should any Texas enviro care about trade? Let me tell you a bit about what the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is, and why you should be concerned as a boot-wearing Southern green activist.

Today through May 18th in Dallas, as negotiators representing nations and corporations from across the world meet behind closed doors for the 12th round of talks on the TPP, a coalition of union members, environmentalists, occupiers, and consumer advocates will be there to shine a light on the backroom deal.

The TPP is a massive, new international trade and investment pact between the United States and countries throughout the Pacific Rim like Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Peru, Australia, and eventually Japan.  Instead of being debated out in the open, the TPP has thus far been negotiated in the shadows. Approximately 600 corporate lobbyists have been given special “cleared advisor” status to review negotiating documents and advise negotiators.  Meanwhile, the general public has been barred from even reviewing what U.S. negotiators have proposed in our names.

So how does this tie into the Texas environmental community? Texas is home to the Barnett and Eagle Ford shales – some of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas. Countries participating in TPP negotiations rely heavily on imported liquefied natural gas (LNG), and stand to benefit from provisions in TPP that would open the floodgates for expanded US production and exports of LNG.  In a recent  letter to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the Sierra Club’s natural gas and labor & trade departments urged Kirk to ensure that the TPP does not allow for export of substantially increased quantities of domestic liquefied natural gas (LNG) without proper analysis and adequate protections for the American public.

Furthermore, we are concerned about language in previous FTAs that lets foreign corporations sue governments directly — in private and non-transparent tribunals — for unlimited cash compensation over almost any domestic law (environmental or otherwise) that the corporation argues might hurt its profitability.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune discussed this issue in a recent blog post citing:

“By the end of 2011, corporations (including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, and Cargill) had brought 450 disputes worth hundreds of millions of dollars against the governments of 89 countries. Many of those cases directly targeted environmental and other public interest laws.”

If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, come rally and march with us in order to let negotiators know that Texans want fair trade that protects both our environment and workers, and that we won’t get fooled again by bad trade deals.

TPP Out of the Shadows!

Rally and March for Good Jobs, Affordable Medicine & a Healthy Environment

Saturday, May 12 * 1:00pm

Addison Circle Park * 15650 Addison Rd * Addison, TX

https://www.facebook.com/events/429902193705698/

Click here to reserve your free seat on a bus from San Antonio or Austin


Dave Cortez
Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter
512-477-6195 (office)

David (dot) Cortez (at) SierraClub (dot) org