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Leading NGOs believe international trade agreement will threaten climate action

Date
14 May 2014
Leading NGOs believe international trade agreement will threaten climate action

LONDON: Over 170 civil society organizations have voiced their “deep concerns” that the new EU-US trade deal could jeapordize international action on climate change ahead of negotiations this week.

In an open letter to US Trade Representative, Ambassador Michael Froman and EU Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, the Centre for International Law is seeking assurance that Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will not threaten environmental protections.

NGOs such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, ActionAid International and Transparency International are all signatories to the appeal.

EU-US dialogue on the TTIP first began in July 2013 and next week’s negotiations will be the fifth round in what is being called the biggest bilateral trade deal in EU history.

The EU Commission believes the deal could generate economic growth and boost employment, but civil society organizations worry public environmental and health concerns will come second to corporate interests.

The trade partnership has been questioned on the grounds it seeks to tackle “technical barriers” to trade, which the civil society organizations recognize as “laws that protect people, the environment, and the integrity of our respective economies.”

The 178 signatories are concerned TTIP will weaken existing legislation, while also acting as an obstacle to the development of new legislation. The open letter states the trade deal “will impede achieving the central mission of most regulators: to protect the public and the environment.” 

Baskut Tuncak, attorney at the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL), elucidated: “Proposals under TTIP would undermine our ability – on both sides of the Atlantic – to address the most urgent environmental challenges, such as climate change and toxic chemicals. The clock is ticking to address both these issues before it’s too late. Nothing short of full transparency on regulatory proposals under TTIP is sufficient.”

To this end, the organizations are calling for the US and EU delegations to publish draft negotiation texts, declare what exactly has been agreed to date and outline how the regulatory cooperation would affect implementation of current laws.

The controversy over the proposed trade pact coincides with the release of new research from NASA and the University of California, Irvine, which found the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is melting so rapidly that “the end of this sector appears to be inevitable,” according to lead author, Dr. Eric Rignot.

This research, when combined with the IPCC AR5 report and the third American National Climate Assessment, provides unequivocal evidence that climate change is now the biggest threat facing humanity.

Furthermore, with the first decade of the 21st century being the warmest since records began, there is a critical need to prioritize action on climate in order to secure a safe future for all.

Both the EU and US have previously declared a willingness to act on climate, and just last March US President Barack Obama and José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission, pledged joint commitment to an international climate agreement at COP21.

In a public statement released after the meeting in Brussels, the leaders recognize that “sustainable economic growth will only be possible if we tackle climate change, which is also a risk to global security. [...] The 2015 agreement must be consistent with science and with the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to below 2°C, and should therefore include ambitious mitigation contributions, notably from the world’s major economies and other significant emitters.”

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By Alana Ryan