President Obama has positioned himself as a global leader in addressing climate change. He has also championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade deal involving 12 countries along the Pacific Rim.
But he can’t truly support both. The TPP will contribute to climate chaos and be an obstacle to any progress in climate mitigation for two reasons.
First, a government report released earlier this year acknowledged that the TPP would give only a marginal boost to the economy, with that boost largely attributed to the agriculture sector. That same industrial agriculture system scheduled to benefit from the TPP, and which dominates the U.S., is responsible for at least a third of climate changing emissions. In other words, the economic justification for the TPP is that it will enhance the segment of the economy making the most significant contribution to the climate crisis.
Second, under the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision of the TPP, a large corporation will be able to sue a government if its profits are harmed by government policies even if they are to protect the environment and cool the planet. That is, corporate practices and profits will have priority over laws to protect public health and the environment. The TPP is a binding agreement, while agreements like the Paris Agreement that came out of the 2015 COP21 climate talks in Paris are non-binding. Binding agreements will always trump non-binding agreements.
President Obama should be well aware of the negative impacts of ISDS since TransCanada sued the United States, under an identical provision of NAFTA—the North American Free Trade Agreement, after Obama himself vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline is a proposed extension of an oil pipeline that already runs through Western Canada. The extension would bring oil through the United States to ports in Texas, enabling greater production and marketing of oil from the tar sands of Canada, considered by many the dirtiest of the dirty energy we need to eliminate if we are serious about halting and reversing climate change. Lawsuits that favor corporations over the environment are expected to proliferate under TPP.
The TPP represents a clear obstacle to climate progress and if President Obama is serious about his commitment to addressing climate chaos, he needs to drop his support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and advocate for a fair and green system of global trade.
Posted on August 25th 2016