How TPP and trade agreements undermine the Paris climate agreement
By Ben Lilliston
Published September 6, 2016
On Earth Day 2016, the U.S. joined 175 countries in signing the United Nations Paris climate agreement setting a path forward to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.1 A few months earlier, the U.S., along with 11 other countries, signed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade and investment deal.2 Remarkably, neither agreement acknowledged the other. The Paris agreement was silent on trade, and the TPP ignored the climate. As countries take action to protect the climate, conflicts between trade rules and climate goals will escalate. The intentional separation of these two global priorities is becoming increasingly untenable.
In this paper we’ll look at real world examples of how trade rules already conflict with climate goals, and dig into the TPP more deeply to project how the proposed deal creates barriers for countries trying to meet their Paris climate pledges. Along the way, we will review a variety of trade reform proposals designed to address our dysfunctional and climate-damaging trade regime.
At the heart of the Paris climate agreement are national-level plans, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.3 Though these INDCs are voluntary, they are considered a critical first step for an agreement designed to progressively ratchet up national commitments to collectively limit a global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial age levels. Within each INDC are goals, policies and strategies to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to climate change in various sectors.
The goals for trade agreements including the TPP are much different, and often conflict with climate objectives. Trade agreements are first and foremost about expanding trade, often in highly extractive, energy-intensive sectors. They are also about protecting the rights of corporations and financial firms, undermining and lowering regulations intended for the public good, dictating government spending, and strengthening intellectual property rights. In other words, trade agreements set broad-reaching rules for the economy and government policy that often adversely affect the climate.
In almost every respect, the TPP and other trade deals like it are in deep climate denial. For example, climate concerns are completely absent in the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (considered the template for future free trade deals),4 as they were in the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995.5 We are now dealing with the consequences of that neglect.
The era of modern trade deals has had a profound impact on the global economy. The value of world trade has more than quintupled, from $8.7 trillion in 1990 to more than $46 trillion in 2014, according to the World Bank.6 World export volume has grown 32-fold between 1950 and 2010, according to World Trade Organization data.7 Global trade has skyrocketed in fossil-fuel intensive sectors like agriculture, forestry, and the energy sector itself.
- The Climate Cost of FREE TRADE: How the TPP and trade deals undermine the Paris climate agreement
Written by Ben Lilliston, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), September 2016