Why today's trade deals are incompatible with climate action

Talk about fiddling while Rome burns. As the G7 met at the weekend, unprecedented fires were raging in the Amazon, symbolising a climate emergency that gets more serious by the day. But while world leaders express concern about the Amazon fires, they continue to pursue the very policies which drive climate change, including ever deeper free trade deals.
 
On Sunday, our own Prime Minister Boris Johnson sat down for breakfast with the world’s most famous climate denier, Donald Trump. Johnson is desperate for a post Brexit trade deal with Trump which not only threatens our NHS and our food standards, but will make it much harder to take the action necessary to tackling climate change. 
 
Only last week, Johnson’s government announced that it wanted to deepen trade relations with Brazil’s facist leader Bolsanaro, who has already started to turbo charge the exploitation of the Amazon. And we know what the consequences of some of these trade deals will be.
 
Last Monday, Malaysia’s leader told Britain that it would demand a relaxation of EU standards on palm oil and deforestation as a price for a post-Brexit trade deal. 
 
Trade deals today are a disaster for the environment, as we explain in our new briefing. And here's why:
  1. Modern free trade deals put the ‘rights’ of investors and corporations ahead of our need to tackle climate change, or to favour small, local production over big, corporate production.
     
  2. Through corporate courts, big business is given a special legal route to challenge environmental policies. Big oil, gas and mining companies regularly use corporate courts to bully governments, as we saw only last week in Armenia. 
     
  3. 'Regulatory cooperation’ chapters mean big business gets to shape regulation before it even comes to MPs and MEPs, and challenge any ‘onerous’ or ‘unnecessary’ environmental policy.
     
  4. Trade deals have massively helped big, industrial agriculture, one of the key drivers of climate change, while wiping out small-scale farming which provides a solution to climate change. 
     
  5. Almost incredibly, free trade deals favour a ‘free market’ in energy, making it harder to discriminate between energy sources, and encouraging markets in the dirtiest fossil fuels like tar sands. 
There are many solutions, and the protestors in the G7, facing huge police repression this weekend, are advocating some of these solutions: like democratic and sustainable energy and food systems. But modern trade deals are incompatible with the climate emergency we now face. 
 
Learn more about the ways that trade deals can block climate action in our briefing: Five reasons modern trade deals are terrible for the climate.
 

 

 

Photo: kris krüg/Flickr

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