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Activists at the 2016 March for a Clean Energy Revolution hold a banner that reads "TPP = Climate Catastrophe." (Photo: Becker1999/flickr/cc)

TPP Would Make Climate Goals 'Nearly Impossible' to Reach: Report

Conflicts between environmentalists and trade advocates will become more frequent, the report warns—and more often than not, trade will win out

Nadia Prupis

In unsurprising news, a report has found that so-called free trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would make it nearly impossible to reach the goals set out by the Paris climate agreement.

If passed, the TPP would impair the treaty's mission by supporting high-emission industries like fossil fuels and agriculture while suppressing climate action at the national and local levels, according to the report, published Tuesday by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) just days after U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping formally signed the agreement at the Group of 20 (G20) summit.

"Trade deals are driving a form of corporate-led globalization that is highly extractive of natural resources and completely ignores the damage it does to the climate," said report author Ben Lilliston, IATP's director of climate strategies. "If we don't reform our trade agreements and reject the TPP, it will be nearly impossible to reach our climate goals agreed to in Paris."

In the report, titled The Climate Cost of Free Trade, Lilliston found that the TPP would

  • Allow countries and corporations to challenge climate-related policies through the notorious mechanism known as Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which gives multinationals a parallel legal system to sue governments for predicted loss of profit and empowers them to overrule national laws;
  • Reinforce industrial modes of agriculture that actually contribute to climate change through the advent of factory farms, the use of harmful agrochemicals, and policies that prioritize trade over public health;
  • Empower false solutions such as moving manufacturing back to domestic shores without actually lowering the greenhouse gas emissions from those industries.

These facets of the deal run counter to some of the Paris agreement's most central commitments, the IATP warned. And the results are especially concerning when considering that among the countries signing on to the 12-nation agreement are some of the world's biggest oil and gas consumers and producers—such as the U.S. and Japan—while others, like Peru and Chile, are at the heart of the deforestation crisis.

"There is a real blind spot for the climate within trade agreements, and particularly the TPP," Lilliston said.

With more and more nations and lawmakers turning their focus onto green policy and greenhouse gas reduction efforts, conflicts between environmentalists and trade advocates will become more frequent, the report warns—and more often than not, trade will win out, particularly because the rules laid out in the deal will be easier to enforce over the Paris agreement's voluntary pledges.

Nonetheless, public opposition to the TPP has grown stronger and more vocal, even after all the effort that went into keeping the TPP negotiations secret. That means there's still hope that the controversial trade deal will fall apart before it can be passed—and perhaps even open a new opportunity to address the problems in existing trade deals, the report states.

"Sinking public support for the TPP in the U.S. is creating an important opportunity to reform trade rules," Lilliston said. "We can't separate a bad deal like the TPP from the secrecy in which it was negotiated. A new, fair trade agenda must be grounded in greater openness, and a more public debate about objectives, including how to respond to climate change."

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