Think Progress | 5 October 2015
Environmentalists: the trans-Pacific trade agreement is a disaster for climate change
by Samantha Page
After years of meetings, months of Congressional debates, and days of around-the-clock negotiations, the United States and 11 other countries reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Trade agreement (TPP) on Monday.
If adopted, the TPP will eliminate or reduce tariffs between Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. But while it specifically addresses some environmental concerns — such as trade of illegally harvested resources or wildlife trafficking — climate change activists saw Monday’s announcement as the culmination of a long-watched train wreck.
“It’s still the same disaster for climate change it was three months ago,” 350.org’s Karthik Ganapathy told ThinkProgress.
His organization, as well as many others, say the TPP protects multinational corporations that profit from fossil fuels. Some have argued that under the TPP — as with the North American Free Trade Agreement — companies will be able to sue countries that enact laws to limit fossil fuel extraction or carbon emissions, if it interferes with profits. The deal also will lead to the rubber-stamping of export facilities for natural gas from fracking and will prevent the U.S. Trade Representative from ever including climate change action in trade deals, Ganapathy said.
But the White House has touted the deal’s potential for environmental conservation, calling it a “once-in-a-generation chance to protect our oceans, wildlife, and the environment.”
Environmentalists aren’t buying it.
“The White House seems intent on telling everyone environmentalists like this deal, but the truth is by handing even more power to Big Oil, letting massive corporations throw tantrum lawsuits at governments who dare to scale back emissions, and prolonging our reliance on fracked gas, there’s no question that the Transpacific Partnership is an absolute disaster for our climate,” Ganapathy said in an email.
Other environmentalists, including Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, took to Twitter to register their outrage, especially after the World Wildlife Fund praised the deal to the New York Times.
WWF told The Huffington Post that it did not endorse the deal.
Under NAFTA, there have been cases brought against countries that have enacted fossil fuel regulations.
“That’s why so many groups and organizations who care about climate change have repeatedly bashed this corporate giveaway — and suggesting otherwise is nothing short of misleading cynicism,” Ganapathy said. “Decision-makers should know better than to try and distort our movement’s position.”
According to a summary of the agreement provided by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, there will be “opportunities for public input in implementation of the Environment chapter.”
“Congress and the American people will have months to read every word before I sign it,” President Obama said in a statement. “If we can get this agreement to my desk, then we can help our businesses sell more Made in America goods and services around the world, and we can help more American workers compete and win.”
Of course, the deal, reached in Atlanta, is not on his desk yet. Congress has 90 days to review the agreement, and it is expected that environmental groups will try to mobilize supporters to reach out to lawmakers.
“The compromises that [were] struck will further enrage environmentalists and other progressive opposition, and threatens to undermine the razor thin majority that gave President Obama Fast Track trade authority,” Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. “Friends of the Earth urges our members and members of Congress to oppose this bad deal.”