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By Steve Horn
While the oil and gas industry has lauded the new trade deal that may soon replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a provision added by Mexico, along with its new president's plan to ban fracking, could complicate the industry's rising ambitions there.
The new agreement, known as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), has faced criticism as being tantamount to NAFTA 2.0—more of a minor reboot that primarily benefits Wall Street investors and large corporations, including oil and gas companies.
The Trump administration released its objectives Monday for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The objectives suggest a repeat of labor and environmental provisions from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a deal whose demise Donald Trump widely took credit for—that were deemed too weak by virtually all leading labor and environmental groups. On other critical questions, the ostensibly "detailed" negotiating objectives provide no details, such as whether corporations will continue to be able to use NAFTA to sue governments over environmental protections in unaccountable tribunals of corporate lawyers.
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By Shiney Varghese
As the sixth round of the negotiations on North American Free Trade Agreement begin next week in Montreal, Canada, the controversy over exactly what a new agreement might involve—if there is one at all—continues to generate debate.
As the NAFTA renegotiations were about to start, the Canadian government publicly stated its core objectives for a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement.
In the latest episode of Zach Galifianakis' web comedy series, the comedian and star of The Hangover trilogy invited Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to sit Between Two Ferns to answer some questions no one else would dare ask her on camera.
The show is anything but serious and gave Clinton the opportunity to showcase a playful side to her personality.
After years of campaigning against the fatally flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the deal appears dead.
The TPP represented the latest in a string of trade deals that put corporate interests ahead of communities, workers, public health and the environment. The broad-based, cross-border campaign tirelessly pressed elected officials to reject the TPP, preventing Congress from passing it this year. Without the environmental, labor, consumer, farm, faith, development and so many other groups that highlighted TPP's shortcomings and organized in their neighborhoods and communities, the TPP would have sailed through Congress before the early presidential primary ballots were cast.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a bad deal for our country and our climate—here's how we can stop it.
By Sarah Rasmussen
Right now, Congress is considering approving an international trade agreement that would lead to more fracking here in the U.S., more burning of rainforests for palm oil and fewer protections for American workers.
Activists rally to stop the TPP.SumOfUs / Flickr
But now there is a groundswell of opposition to the TPP, with hundreds of thousands of people speaking out. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders already oppose it.
And if the Democratic Party opposes the TPP in its official platform, that may truly be the end of the road.
We can stop this destructive trade deal.
We told Congress to reject it and all the presidential candidates oppose it. Now we must tell the leadership of the Democratic Party to oppose the TPP in its official platform.
The TPP is not about trade. It's about giving global corporations even more loopholes to overcome democracy.
Companies like Exxon want the power to sue our government in order to eradicate environmental and labor protections that discourage their profits—and the TPP would expand this power.
This international trade pact was negotiated in extreme secrecy among Pacific Rim nations like the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan. Corporate executives were at the table, but environmental and labor groups were not—and of course, citizens of these countries had absolutely no say.
Just a few years ago, the TPP seemed like a done deal. But now it's floundering and looking less and less likely to pass thanks to grassroots organizing around the country. With your help, we can put it to bed once and for all.
Tell the Democratic Party: listen to the voice of the people and take a stand against the TPP.
I have to admit that for a few days I felt really angry and depressed about the outcome of the Democratic Party Platform Committee meeting in Orlando. Despite a letter from more than 200 party delegates calling for a ban on fracking in the platform, more than 100,000 public petitions demanding the same and a recent Gallup poll showing that a vast majority of Democrats (not to mention a clear majority of Americans at large) are opposed to fracking, the committee failed to stand up to the corporate power of the oil and gas industry. In the end, the fracking ban proposal wasn't even allowed to come up for a vote.
Although this is disappointing, our work doesn't change. We must organize, organize, organize and build a grassroots movement so strong and diverse we are able to elect national leaders that reflect our progressive ideals and will fight for worthy policies. And of course we must then hold these individuals accountable.
In the meantime, progress is being made. Democratic Platform Committee members voted in favor of an historic amendment categorizing climate change as a global emergency requiring a World War II-scale mobilization. It's our job to keep fighting for policies that will keep fossil fuels in the ground and end the fracking nightmare. It will be up to each of us to keep demanding that those in power—regardless of political party—take the needed steps to seriously address our impending climate crisis.
To be clear, here's what the Democratic Party platform needed to do that it didn't do:
- Call for a national ban on fracking, the dangerous method of oil and natural gas extraction responsible for a majority of American fossil fuel production.
- Call for rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a disastrous trade deal that would undermine domestic environmental regulations and encourage more fracking.
- Call for a halt to construction of gas-fired power plants, which burn fracked gas and contribute to climate change.
- Call for a halt to the construction of oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure that is scarring the country, impacting land, waterways and communities.
- Call for a stop to the use of fracked oil "bomb trains," which facilitate more fracking and pose highly explosive risk to communities they pass through.
- Call for a halt to all fossil fuel extraction on federal lands—to Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground—in order to avoid the biggest impacts of climate change.
- Call for challenging corporate power. The committee rejected several amendments that would have addressed this critical issue including one amendment that would stop the revolving door between industry and government employment.
These Democratic Party failures clearly explain why I will be marching in the streets of Philadelphia on July 24, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, to raise up clear, bold, urgent demands—demands that must be met if we are to avoid the worst and most disruptive climate consequences. We want fracking banned, fossil fuels left in the ground, the TPP rejected, environmental justice for all and a quick, just transition to 100 percent renewable energy.
That's what the Clean Energy Revolution requires and we demand that it happen now. Join me in Philadelphia.
By Ryan Schleeter
Monday marked the beginning of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), where the party will—in theory—come together around what it's calling the "most progressive platform in party history." And if that platform is any indication, climate change will figure heavily in the discussion this week.
Hillary Clinton poses with a supporter at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire earlier this year.Andrew Lichtenstein / Greenpeace
The Dems have come a long way since embracing a deeply flawed "all of the above" energy strategy in 2012.
Their new platform places renewable energy at the center of economic growth and job creation. It recognizes the intersections of social and environmental justice, with specific references to the Flint water crisis and the impacts of climate change on communities of color and indigenous populations. And it empowers the Department of Justice to investigate fossil fuel companies for their role in spreading climate denial.
This places them in stark contrast to Republicans, who groaned at the mere mention of climate change at their convention last week.
This week should tell us even more about the direction the Dems are heading on climate change, including how they'll address some of the platform's shortcomings. Here's what to watch for:
1. Where Does the Party Stand on Fracking and Natural Gas?
Well, it's complicated.
Fracking has no place in the platform of a party that wants to "lead the fight against climate change around the world." By not advocating a national ban on fracking, the Dems are falling short of the action we need to avoid its catastrophic health, climate and public safety impacts.
Instead, they're shirking responsibility by stating that fracking "should not take place where states and local communities oppose it." Translation: everyday people will have to go head to head with the fossil fuel industry to keep their communities frack-free. For an indication of just how difficult that is, look at Colorado right now.
On top of tepid regulations, the party leadership's problematic history with fracking is cause for concern. Both presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her vice presidential pick Tim Kaine have a long record of supporting fracking and pushing the false narrative of natural gas as a "bridge fuel."
As the Democrats try to position themselves as climate leaders, pay particular attention to how how this presumptive Democratic ticket talks about fracking or if they choose to skirt the issue.
2. Will Support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Erode?
It's a curious decision, as President Obama is the only high profile Democrat left in favor of the deal. Both Clinton and Bernie Sanders have opposed it since last year, citing concerns over how it would outsource jobs overseas.
But that's not all that the TPP would do. It also makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to export natural gas with little to no environmental review, creating economic incentive for even more fracking (see above for why that's a terrible idea).
Look to see which side of the aisle party leaders fall on this week and if there any notable changes in position, like Kaine coming out in opposition earlier this week after voting in favor earlier this year.
3. When Can We Expect Some Actual Commitments to Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground?
Unlike people across the country, the Democrats have yet to fully embrace the keep it in the ground movement, but they seem to be inching closer.
Their platform would protect the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from offshore drilling, but not the Gulf of Mexico. It calls for "reform[ing] fossil fuel leasing on public lands" and "phas[ing] down extraction," but gives little detail as to what that actually means. And of course, fracking.
The Dems should listen to communities calling for an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure, like those organizing against oil exploitation in the Gulf South and those protesting fossil fuel leasing in the Mountain West. And they won't have to look far for cues—thousands joined a march for clean energy and an end to the fossil fuel era in downtown Philadelphia on Sunday.
This week, keep an eye on how far progressive members of the party—like Keep It in the Ground Act authors Jeff Merkley (Senate) and Jared Huffman (House)—are able to push their more moderate colleagues on fossil fuel extraction.
And now for some perspective.
At this point, it's also worth a friendly reminder that the official Republican energy platform is literally terrible, Donald Trump thinks climate change is a "myth" (ever the ticket of nuance, his running mate Mike Pence prefers "hoax") and the GOP is the only conservative party in the world to deny the science of climate change.
That just feels relevant right now.
Many pundits were caught off-guard by the transpartisan fury over America's trade policy rocking the presidential primary season. But it's no surprise to me. I grew up in a working class family in Kenosha, Wisconsin. So I know why Americans have had enough of shiny promises, job-killing trade deals and Wall Street bailouts that propel ordinary people into an economic nose dive.
Hard working Americans of all political stripes recognize when the rules have been rigged against them, because they live day-to-day with the results. No doubt revolutionary change is an appealing alternative.
Since the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization agreements in the mid-1990s, America has lost more than five million manufacturing jobs net. Millions of service sector jobs also have been offshored.
During the NAFTA era, my home state lost 68,000 manufacturing jobs—one out of seven in the state. Just one example: After Chrysler received billions in a 2009 bailout, it shut its Kenosha Engine facility, cut the last 800 jobs and moved operations to Mexico.
The damage extends beyond those who lose their jobs. They compete for non-offshorable service sector jobs, pushing down wages economy-wide, hurting communities coast to coast.
From Flint to El Paso and points beyond, Americans have been slammed by the trade double whammy: Firms and their well-paying jobs go away. Then just when assistance is most needed, tax bases shrivel so basic services get cut and infrastructure crumbles.
Bernie Sanders' primary victories have finally forced the mainstream media to mention the millions of middle class livelihoods destroyed by trade policies. Now it's time to face up to a second disastrous risk: These trade deals pose a direct frontal attack on a livable environment.
Pacts like the recently-signed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), currently sidelined without sufficient congressional support for passage, contain thousands of pages of enforceable rules that would fuel climate chaos and empower corporate polluters to challenge environmental laws across the globe.
And if the TPP were approved, the Department of Energy would be required to automatically approve all natural gas exports to the 11 other TPP countries, eliminating our government's ability to make decisions about our energy future and incentivizing a boom in dangerous fracking. The extreme secrecy of TPP negotiations allowed the Obama administration to claim it was the greenest deal ever. But when the TPP text was finally disclosed late last year, environmental groups that the White House claimed supported it, such as NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife, joined the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, 350.org and scores of others in opposition.
Consider just one feature that sounds like the plot of a disaster movie. The TPP would empower foreign investors to drag the U.S. government to private international arbitration tribunals whenever they claim that our environmental, energy or climate policies violate expansive new TPP foreign investor privileges. Corporations can demand unlimited taxpayer compensation based on future profits ostensibly thwarted by the policy. There is no outside appeal.
If approved, the TPP would double U.S. exposure to this “investor-state dispute settlement" (ISDS) regime. Overnight 9,500 Japanese manufacturing and Australian mining giants, among other firms, could skirt our courts and laws to attack critical public interest safeguards.
It's not hypothetical. Under similar NAFTA provisions, TransCanada is now demanding $15 billion in U.S. taxpayer compensation because our government (rightly) opposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
More than half of past ISDS suits have concluded with the government losing or settling. Billions have been paid to foreign companies. Already half of the new ISDS cases filed in recent years seek to enforce corporate rights to mine, extract gas and oil and generate energy no matter the consequences to us and our environment.
Expanding this system through the TPP would block worldwide environmental and social progress while empowering corporations to undermine existing climate and environmental policies.
Remarkably, the TPP not only omits the word “climate" from its text, but does not require TPP signatories to comply with their United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change commitments. This despite all TPP countries being climate convention signatories.
The bottom line: Our failed trade policies imperil both Americans' livelihoods and the health of our planet—two reasons why the more people learn, the less they like them.
The bipartisan American trade revolt now underway demonstrates that we need to scrap these bad deals and demand real change. This is no time for half measures, bland reassurances or waiting games.
With both our economy and environment at risk, Americans can no longer remain silent. We must send a strong message to current policymakers and candidates alike that the people and the environment come first. Those who trade away our jobs, our economy and our environment to the highest bidder must be stopped.
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By Lukas Ross, Friends of the Earth Action
The same day TransCanada sued the U.S. government for $15 billion, the Democratic Party's platform drafting committee met in Missouri. Between the two, there is a lesson to be learned about free trade and the climate crisis.
The lawsuit was the anticipated result of President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.Using a notorious provision in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Canadian oil giant is hoping to claim $15 billion in lost future profits by dragging the U.S. before an international tribunal. These sorts of extra-judicial forums, where corporations can sue governments for enforcing their own laws, are a hallmark of established free trade deals like NAFTA and looming ones like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Forty environmental groups signed a letter urging Congress to reject the TransPacific Partnership. Dylan Petrohilos / Think Progress
The meeting in Missouri was to finalize a draft of the 2016 Democratic Party platform, a usually sleepy and symbolic process that this year has exploded into a proxy fight between presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Pipelines like Keystone XL and free trade writ large were both on the agenda—and the votes cast reflect a growing divide between the party establishment and the grassroots.
Within hours of TransCanada filing its lawsuit under NAFTA, the platform committee had the chance to officially oppose the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, a Pacific Rim trade deal that would allow hundreds of new fossil fuel companies access to provisions similar to those used by TransCanada. The motion was rejected. Despite both candidates being on record opposing the current TPP, the motion was rejected in a 10-5 vote. It was supported by appointees from Sanders and opposed by appointees from Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Compromise language was offered instead, calling for trade deals that protect workers and the environment without mentioning the TPP by name.
Talking about responsible trade but refusing to be clear about the TPP isn't a good look, for the DNC or anyone else. If the TPP and its European counterpart, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, were both enacted, it would radically expand the power of fossil fuel companies to sue the U.S. for laws and regulations that hurt their expected future profits. The power to launch lawsuits like TransCanada's would be put on steroids and everything fromlocal fracking bans to renewable energy mandates could be litigated in trade tribunals run overwhelmingly by corporate lawyers.
Besides missing the boat on trade, the committee managed a few other favors for the TransCanadas of the world. Jane Kleeb, the founder of Bold Nebraska and the newly elected Chair of Nebraska Democrats, supported a motion calling for ending the use of eminent domain in support of fossil fuel projects. It was unceremoniously voted down. Another rejected motion was an endorsement of the so-called "climate test," the principle that infrastructure and other projects shouldn't be approved if they worsen carbon emissions. Applying this standard was what led President Obama to reject Keystone XL in the first place.
In fact, Friday turned out to be a bad night for serious climate policy all around. Motions pushed by Sanders's appointee Bill McKibben supporting a carbon tax and a national frackingban were both rejected. So too was a motion to keep fossil fuels in the ground by ending new leasing on our public lands and waters.
Even the ambitious energy target supported by both Clinton and Sanders—100 percent clean energy by 2050—wasn't an unqualified success. The language is vague enough that it could include everything from wind and solar to dangerous false solutions like biomass, carbon capture and sequestration and nukes.
The concern about what exactly counts as clean energy isn't unfounded. If Bill McKibben was chosen by Sanders as a progressive voice on climate, his alter ego appointed by Clinton is Carol Browner, a one-time Environmental Protection Agency administrator who splits her time these days between professional lobbying and pro-nuclear advocacy.
The good news is that Missouri isn't the end. The platform still needs to be approved by the full platform committee next month in Orlando and after that by the full convention in Philadelphia. When it comes to pushing back on trade and climate, there are still two more shots.
As philosopher Dr. Cornel West, another Sen. Sanders appointee, said as he abstained from the final vote, "Take it to the next stage."
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Labor unions, environmental organizations and community, internet freedom and racial justice groups delivered more than 1,000 signatures from Rep. Diana DeGette's constituents Wednesday urging her to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP is a trade deal negotiated in secret for years by 12 countries, including the U.S. On Feb. 4, the U.S. and the leaders of the 11 other countries signed the text of the pact. Now a Congressional vote to confirm the deal is imminent. If passed, the TPP will trump commonsense protections for workers, the environment, public health and food safety.
The groups urged Rep. DeGette to commit to vote “No" on the TPP and uphold her long-standing reputation as a champion for Colorado's working families, environment and food safety protections.
This month, a new Tufts University study found that the TPP would eliminate 450,000 American jobs and widen the income gulf between working families and the economic elites. Further, Malaysia and Vietnam are included in the agreement, countries that pay pittance wages and have histories of labor and human rights abuses.
“Rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the most important thing Congress can do," said Dave Felice, political director for the Communication Workers of America, District 7. “This massive deal will destroy American jobs and our ability to protect the environment. Under the TPP, multinational corporations will take over our democratic government."
The TPP would provide another avenue for foreign corporations to undermine domestic environmental laws and food safety regulations. Last year, Congress repealed important country of origin meat labels because of a World Trade Organization tribunal. This January, TransCanada brought a $15 billion NAFTA lawsuit against the U.S. for rejecting the environmentally destructive Keystone XL pipeline.
“We've already seen existing mega-trade deals undermine regulations that protect our food," Sam Schabacker, western region director with Food & Water Watch, said. “The TPP—which is like NAFTA on steroids—will further erode our vital food safety protections and give foreign corporations new powers to challenge laws that were put in place to make sure Coloradans can trust the food they are eating. Representative DeGette must vote 'no' on this terrible deal."
Even though it will have a significant impact on the day-to-day lives of Coloradans and all Americans, leaders negotiating the TPP kept members of Congress, governors, the media and the public entirely in the dark about the details for seven years. In contrast, hundreds of corporations and business trade associations had a seat at the table as designated “trade advisors" and inserted their own special interest giveaways into the TPP text.
"The TPP would empower over 9,000 foreign corporations to sue governments at all levels (national, state and local) in tribunals outside the U.S. court system if the corporations believed laws undermined their 'future profits,'" Carolyn Bninski of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center said.
“This provision of the TPP, called the Investor State Dispute Resolution, undermines sovereignty, democracy and the powers of states and local control. The TPP constitutes a huge transfer of power from the people to foreign corporations. This is completely unacceptable."
President Obama has identified the TPP as his legacy foreign policy goal and can submit this trade deal for Congress' approval at any time. Once the deal is submitted, Congress will have 90 legislative days to vote on the measure.
"By now politicians should have learned that supporting policies like the TPP that threaten Internet freedom is a great way to invoke the wrath of constituents from across the political spectrum," Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said.
“Policy that affects the Internet should never be made in secret and any member of Congress who votes in support of the TPP will become known as a supporter of censorship and an enemy of free speech."
The groups that participated in the delivery were, Food & Water Watch, Colorado AFL-CIO, Colorado People's Alliance, Denver Area Labor Federation, Colorado Alliance for Retired Americans, Communication Workers of America,, District 7, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Care2, Corporate Accountability International and Fight for the Future.
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At a convention center and casino in Auckland, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, setting the clock ticking for President Obama to send the deeply flawed deal to Congress for approval.
The U.S. Trade Representative is gambling away our jobs, our clean air and water, and our future by pushing the polluter-friendly Trans-Pacific Partnership, so it only makes sense that it was signed in a casino and convention center. Signing the TPP is Russian roulette for our economy and our climate.
Today’s trade rules are rigged, like a bad game of blackjack, to favor powerful big polluters and other greedy corporations. Just look at TransCanada. That Big Oil company is suing the American people under NAFTA for $15 billion as ‘compensation’ for the Keystone XL decision that spared us the threat of increased climate disruption and dirty, dangerous oil spills. The TPP sweetens the pot for many more foreign fossil fuel corporations, empowering them to follow TransCanada’s bad example of challenging our climate protections in private trade tribunals.
Thankfully, it’s not too late to stop this toxic deal. Congress holds the trump card on the widely unpopular TPP, so now is the time to urge our representatives to reject the toxic trade deal and build a new model of trade that puts the health and safety of people before the profits of big corporations that are already polluting our air and water.
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By Nika Knight
Warning against dangers to "workers, communities and our environment," more than 450 environmental advocacy groups called on Congress to reject the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Specifically warning against the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions, which allow multinational corporations sue nations in private, clandestine tribunals for passing laws they don't like, the groups sent a letter Monday that stated: "We strongly urge you to stand up for healthy communities, clean air and water, Indigenous peoples, property rights and a stable climate by committing to vote no on the TPP and asking the U.S. Trade Representative to remove from TTIP any provision that empowers corporations to challenge government policies in extrajudicial tribunals."
The letter was signed by organizations both large and national and small and local, ranging from the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch and 350.org to groups such as Bold Nebraska, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy and Kauaians for a Bright Energy Future, among many others.
"The TPP would let foreign oil and gas companies undermine the will of hundreds of communities that have worked tirelessly to protect themselves from the environmental and public health hazards associated with fracking," Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said. "These trade deals give the worst climate scofflaws new and powerful weapons to wield against the broad-based grassroots movement to stop fracking and fight for a clean energy future."
Pointing out the precedent set by TransCanada's $15 billion lawsuit against the U.S. for its rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the groups detailed the stark dangers the ISDS provision poses to the environmental movement.
"By empowering many more firms to launch ISDS cases against the U.S.," the letter continued, "the TPP and TTIP would pose a major threat to efforts across the country to restrict fossil fuel activities," including:
- Fracking: The TPP and TTIP would undermine efforts in various states to restrict the dangerous practice of fracking by granting ISDS rights to more foreign fracking firms than all 56 existing U.S. trade and investment pacts combined. The threat is real—a gas corporation named Lone Pine Resources is currently using NAFTA's nearly identical foreign investor rights to ask an ISDS tribunal to order compensation from Canada for a fracking moratorium in Quebec.
- Offshore drilling: The TPP and TTIP would empower oil and gas corporations with more than 10 million acres' worth of U.S. offshore drilling leases—one out of every three leased acres—to use ISDS threats to resist offshore drilling restrictions, posing a threat to coastal communities and the climate. That is 24 times more area than that leased to firms with existing ISDS rights.
- Oil and gas extraction on public lands: The TPP and TTIP would allow corporations with leases for oil and gas drilling on more than 720,000 acres of U.S. public lands to launch ISDS cases against U.S. federal leasing restrictions, undercutting our ability to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
- Fossil fuel pipelines: The TPP and TTIP would enable corporations that own tens of thousands of miles' worth of fossil fuel pipelines in at least 29 states to go to private tribunals and, like TransCanada, demand billions of dollars for delays or denials of dangerous pipelines.
"The TPP and TTIP's unprecedented expansion of U.S. ISDS liability would similarly threaten efforts to protect communities from fossil fuel trains, LNG terminals, refineries and other fossil fuel hazards," the letter concluded.
The letter was also signed by several Indigenous groups, including Idle No More San Francisco Bay, Indigenous Environmental Network and the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council and drew particular attention to the threats such trade agreements pose to Indigenous rights and traditional territories:
Much of the world's remaining fossil fuel reserves are on or adjacent to Indigenous lands and territories. Unfortunately, the nation-states engaged in the TPP and TTIP agreements have not strongly defended Indigenous land rights and Indigenous peoples' right to free, prior and informed consent. Ultimately, such trade deals grant more rights to transnational corporations, often at the expense of Indigenous rights, undermining special protections of Indigenous lands and cultural resources. For Indigenous peoples wanting a just economic transition away from oil and gas development, these deals pose severe risks to their sovereignty and ability to self-determine their futures as nations and tribal citizens concerned about the climate, health and environmental impacts from fossil fuels.
Rising opposition to so-called "free trade" agreements has fueled voters this election cycle and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has made his vocal opposition to the TPP and other deals like it a cornerstone of his campaign:
"There is so much momentum now to end the TPP and other trade agreements," as Sierra Club trade program president Ilana Solomon told Reuters. "This is an area where there is bipartisan agreement ... that these deals harm workers, communities and our environment."
President Obama is hoping to have the TPP ratified before he leaves office on Jan. 20, 2017 and Reuters reports that Congress is expected to vote on it after the election in November.
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Today, the Obama administration released the long-secret text of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that would weaken consumer protections, undermine U.S. food safety standards and prevent commonsense food labeling. The language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures.
The language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures. Photo credit: Erik S Lesser / U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The TPP is a giveaway to big agribusiness and food companies that want to use trade deals to attack sensible food safety rules, weaken the inspection of imported food and block efforts to strengthen U.S. food safety standards. The food and agribusiness industries inserted language into the text of the TPP that will undermine U.S. food safety oversight and expose consumers to risky imported foods.
The TPP includes a new provision designed to second-guess the government inspectors who monitor food imports. The so-called Rapid Response Mechanism allows companies to challenge border inspection procedures that companies claim cause unnecessary delay—like holding suspect shipments while awaiting laboratory test results—and demand that a TPP panel of experts review and provide guidance on the inspection. This would create a chilling-effect on rigorous border inspection that would be especially dangerous for problems that are not obvious, like chemical or drug residues that would only appear after more thorough examination and testing.
The TPP will increase the volume of imported and potentially risky foods coming into the U.S., but tie the hands of the border inspectors who are the last line of defense between the shipper and the supermarket. The TPP gives companies new powers to second guess inspectors and push uninspected food onto the market.
The TPP food safety rules also include a host of deregulatory catch phrases and code words that are considerably stronger than the food safety rules in prior trade deals like the World Trade Organization. The food and agribusiness industry demanded—and received—stronger sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS ) disciplines that make it harder to defend domestic food safety standards from international trade disputes. It also directs the U.S. to expand the current policy of recognizing foreign food safety systems that are not as strong as ours.
American consumers are pushing to block the use of artificial and potentially risky processes and ingredients, like antibiotics and GMOs, but the TPP could trump these democratic efforts to improve our food supply.
The biotechnology industry received the biggest benefit from the TPP. This is the first trade agreement to provide specific biotechnology protections, according to the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The posted SPS chapter does not include the Annexes where these provisions would be located. Agribusiness and biotech seed companies can now more easily use trade rules to challenge countries that ban GMO imports, test for GMO contamination, do not promptly approve new GMO crops or even require GMO labeling.
The TPP gives the food industry a powerful new weapon to wield against the nationwide movement to label GMO foods. The language in the TPP is more powerful and expansive than other trade deals that have already been used to weaken or eliminate dolphin safe tuna and country of origin labels.
The TPP food safety and labeling provisions are worse than expected and bad news for American consumers and farmers. Congress must reject this raw deal that handcuffs food safety inspectors and exposes everyone to a rising tide of unsafe imported food.
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During his endorsement speech, the Vermont senator said he intends to do everything in his power to ensure the former secretary of state is the next president of the U.S. Sanders began his speech by saying:
Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that. She will be the Democratic nominee for president and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.
I have come here today not to talk about the past but to focus on the future. That future will be shaped more by what happens on November 8 in voting booths across our nation than by any other event in the world. I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president.
Sanders' endorsement comes less than two weeks before the Democratic National Convention. On Sunday the senator, who was in charge of picking the members of the Democratic National Convention's Platform Committee, praised the adoption of "the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party," Democracy Now reported.
While Clinton wasn't known as the first pick for many environmental activists, Sanders has helped the presumptive party nominee develop a more extensive climate policy.
Throughout the primaries, Sanders helped pull Clinton and the party to the left and take stronger climate action.
"Democratic voters have been fortunate to witness a vigorous and hard-fought campaign between two candidates with a clear and progressive vision for out country—which is exactly how it should be," Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, said in a statement.
"Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders made this campaign about ideas. Ideas on how to stop climate disruption while speeding our transition to clean, renewable energy and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Ides on the importance of rejecting dangerous trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership. And ideas on how best to help those whose homes and lives have been wrecked by pollution."
The Sierra Club formally endorsed Clinton in June.
Not everyone was as pleased with the endorsement announcement, though. Several people took to Twitter to show their dislike of the news:
Not surprisingly, Donald Trump weighed in on the endorsement, too:
The Democratic National Convention will be held July 25-28 in Philadelphia.
Members of the Democratic party Platform Committee, including (from left to right) American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, and Palestinian rights academic James Zogby. Photo credit: DNCC
"All corporations owe it to their shareholders to fully analyze and disclose risks they face including climate risks. Those who fail to do so should be held accountable," the committee declared.
Watch the platform's authors discuss the motion to investigate fossil fuel companies:
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By Gaelle Gourmelon, Worldwatch Institute
More than 200 cities have set greenhouse gas reduction goals or targets. Action in these urban areas, which represent a combined population of 439 million people, could propel countries to meet their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—the national greenhouse gas reduction pledges embodied in the Paris agreement.
According to Can a City Be Sustainable?, the latest edition of State of the World, cities and their inhabitants are playing a lead role in achieving global climate action goals.
“The challenge over the next several decades is an enormous one," write Michael Renner and Tom Prugh, contributing authors and co-directors of the report. “This requires not change around the edges, but a fundamental restructuring of how cities operate, how much they consume in resources and how much waste they produce, what they look like and how they are structured."
Growing numbers of cities have pledged themselves to climate commitments and sustainability goals. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group has expanded to more than 80 cities. The Compact of Mayors, launched at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, is the largest coalition of city leaders addressing climate change. ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability works with more than 1,000 cities around the world.
Cities today host more than half of the Earth's human beings and represent about 70 percent of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. If trends continue, urban populations are expected to increase to 6 billion by 2045, at which point two-thirds of all people will live in urban environments. “If current trends in urbanization continue unabated, urban energy use will more than triple, compared to 2005 levels, by 2050," write Renner and Prugh.
It is no surprise that cities collectively account for a large share of greenhouse gas emissions, because they concentrate economic activity. But cities vary widely in their per capita emissions. Rotterdam in the Netherlands, for example, emits 29.8 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per capita where Paris emits just 5.2 per capita (2005). Many variables, such as climate, urban form and primary energy source, affect a city's level of emissions. Economic factors, such as the wealth and income of residents and the level and structure of economic activity, also play a major role.
“Only demand-side policies that succeed in sharply reducing energy consumption in transport, buildings, waste handling and agriculture can address the urgent need to decarbonize energy," write Renner and Prugh. “It is cities that must step up to the front lines of that battle."
In conjunction with policy changes, cities' success will depend on having both comprehensive data and financial support. Current protocols, such as one developed by the World Resources Institute, C40 Cities and ICLEI, can be used to measure or estimate greenhouse gas emissions in cities worldwide. Financing urban sustainability may be easier in some cities than in others. Among the C40 cities, only three-quarters have budgetary control over property or municipal taxes. In poorer cities, multilateral development banks and a variety of donors may play an important role.
Gaelle Gourmelon is the communications director at the Worldwatch Institute. She has a background in biology and environmental health and focuses on how we can use social institutions and the planet's resources more effectively.
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A new analysis released today by Ceres shows that many of the nation's largest electric utilities and their local subsidiaries are moving toward lower carbon fuel sources and that ambitious state policies and strong corporate demand for renewable energy are key drivers of this trend.
The 2016 Benchmarking Utility Clean Energy analysis ranks the 30 largest electric utility holding companies and their 119 subsidiary companies, which collectively account for about 60 percent of U.S. retail electricity sales. The results show overall advances on renewable energy and energy efficiency in 2014, the latest year for which data is available, with some utilities producing 25 to 35 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewables.
Wide disparities in the utilities' clean energy performance remain, however, underscoring the need for swift implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. The plan reduces carbon emissions from electric power plants by 32 percent by 2030.
"Renewable energy and energy efficiency, key building blocks of the Clean Power Plan, are increasingly cost-effective options for electric utilities looking to lower their carbon emissions," said Dan Bakal, director of electric power programs at Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy organization.
"Our analysis shows that the U.S. electric sector is in the midst of an unprecedented shift toward clean energy resources and that state policies are critical for continued progress in achieving national and international climate goals."
Utilities with the strongest results were typically in states with strong clean energy policies, such as Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts and California. The lowest-ranked utilities were mostly in southeast states, such as Alabama and Mississippi, which have weak state policies.
Top and Bottom Ranked U.S. Investor-Owned Electric Utilities on Clean Energy Deployment
Among the 30 holding companies, Sempra, PG&E, Edison International and Xcel ranked the highest for renewable energy sales, accounting for more than half of the total sales. Renewable resources made up more than 20 percent and in Sempra's case, nearly 36 percent, of the companies' sales in 2014. FPL, American Electric Power, ConEdison and PPL Corp ranked at the bottom, with renewable energy sales accounting for less than two percent of their total retail electricity sales.
Sempra Energy's renewable energy sales grew by more than 55 percent between 2013 and 2014 alone and Pinnacle West's grew by nearly 50 percent, while Eversource and DTE Energy demonstrated growth of more than 25 percent.
"Xcel Energy's positive ranking results from more than a decade of working with our states on clean energy policies," said Frank Prager, vice president, policy and federal affairs for Xcel Energy. "We continue to focus on our customers' growing desire for clean, renewable energy while demonstrating that we can successfully integrate these resources reliably and at a reasonable cost. It's an approach that is significantly reducing emissions and ensuring a more sustainable energy future for our communities."
"Californians care a lot about clean energy and we want to be an active partner in making the transition to a low-carbon economy as quickly as possible," said Melissa Lavinson, chief sustainability officer and vice president of federal affairs for PG&E. "Our showing in the Ceres rankings reflects our commitment to addressing the urgent challenge of climate change, while also helping our customers to use less energy and save money."
Energy efficiency top performers among the holding companies include Eversource Energy, PG&E, Portland General Electric, National Grid and Pinnacle West. Each achieved annual savings of at least 1.5 percent of their total retail electric sales, while also helping their customers save on their energy bills. Dominion Resources, FPL, Entergy and Southern Co and OGE Energywere among the weakest performers.
"Continued investment in energy efficiency and zero-carbon energy is central to Exelon's effort to build the next generation energy grid and drive the transition to clean energy," said Chris Gould, Exelon's senior vice president, corporate strategy and chief innovation and sustainability officer. "Exelon continuously works to identify new innovations and smart technologies to give customers greater access to clean energy and tools to help them use energy more efficiently."
Among the report's other key findings:
- The Clean Power Plan's key approaches to compliance, energy efficiency and renewable energy, are increasingly economically feasible options for electric utilities. Energy efficiency is the lowest-cost energy resource and renewable energy costs continues to decline dramatically.
- State policies are no longer the only driver of utility clean energy deployment. Companies with ambitious renewable energy sourcing goals are using their voice as major energy users to encourage utilities to offer more renewable energy. A consortium of major companies pledged not only to promote 60 gigawatts of new renewables development, but also to help overcome the barriers that complicate clean energy procurement. Companies are sourcing ever-greater amounts of clean energy directly from utilities.
- Performance is not the only measure of clean energy leadership, which should include utility support for clean energy policies. For example, National Grid and PG&E have been outspoken supporters of energy efficiency, while FirstEnergy has been a vocal critic of Ohio's energy efficiency policy and supported efforts to freeze the state's goals.
"Seeing the leaps the renewable energy leaders have made in just two years has been amazing," said Ron Pernick, managing director of Clean Edge, a clean-tech research and advisory firm, which co-authored the report with Ceres. "Governments, corporations and individual customers continue to demand clean, efficient energy and some utilities are answering that call."
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I used to believe in trade agreements. That was before the wages of most Americans stagnated and a relative few at the top captured just about all the economic gains.
The old-style trade agreements of the 1960s and 1970s increased worldwide demand for products made by American workers and thereby helped push up American wages.
The new-style agreements increase worldwide demand for products made by American corporations all over the world, enhancing corporate and financial profits but keeping American wages down.
The fact is, recent trade deals are less about trade and more about global investment.
Big American corporations no longer make many products in the U.S. for export abroad. Most of what they sell abroad they make abroad.
The biggest things they “export" are ideas, designs, franchises, brands, engineering solutions, instructions and software, coming from a relatively small group of managers, designers and researchers in the U.S.
The Apple iPhone is assembled in China from components made in Japan, Singapore and a half-dozen other locales. The only things coming from the U.S. are designs and instructions from a handful of engineers and managers in California.
Apple even stows most of its profits outside the U.S. so it doesn't have to pay American taxes on them.
Recent “trade" deals have been wins for big corporations and Wall Street, along with their executives and major shareholders, because they get better direct access to foreign markets and billions of consumers.
They also get better protection for their intellectual property—patents, trademarks and copyrights—and for their overseas factories, equipment and financial assets.
That's why big corporations and Wall Street are so enthusiastic about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)—the giant deal among countries responsible for 40 percent of the global economy.
That deal would give giant corporations even more patent protection overseas. And it would allow them to challenge any nation's health, safety and environmental laws that stand in the way of their profits—including our own.
But recent trade deals haven't been wins for most Americans.
By making it easier for American corporations to make things abroad, the deals have reduced the bargaining power of American workers to get better wages here.
The Trans Pacific Trade Partnership's investor protections will make it safer for firms to relocate abroad—the Cato Institute describes such protections as “lowering the risk premium" on offshoring—thereby further reducing corporate incentives to make and do things in the U.S., using and upgrading the skills of Americans.
Proponents say giant deals like the TPP are good for the growth of the U.S. economy. But that argument begs the question of whose growth they're talking about.
Almost all the growth goes to the richest one percent. The rest of us can buy some products cheaper than before, but most of those gains would are offset by wage losses.
In theory, the winners could fully compensate the losers and still come out ahead. But the winners don't compensate the losers.
For example, it's ironic that the administration is teaming up with congressional Republicans to enact the TPP, when congressional Republicans have done just about everything they can to keep down the wages of most Americans.
They've refused to raise the minimum wage (whose inflation-adjusted value is now almost 25 percent lower than it was in 1968), expand unemployment benefits, invest in job training, enlarge the Earned Income Tax Credit, improve the nation's infrastructure or expand access to public higher education.
They've embraced budget austerity that has slowed job and wage growth. And they've continued to push “trickle-down" economics—keeping tax rates low for America's richest, protecting their tax loopholes and fighting off any attempt to raise taxes on wealthy inheritances to their level before 2000.
I've seen first-hand how effective Wall Street and big corporations are at wielding influence—using lobbyists, campaign donations and subtle promises of future jobs to get the global deals they want.
Global deals like the TPP will boost the profits of Wall Street and big corporations and make the richest one percent even richer. But they'll contribute to the steady shrinkage of the American middle class.
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