Friends of the Earth

450 environmental groups’ plea to the US Congress in face of pending trans-pacific trade deals

An anti TTIP protest. Photo credit: Friends of the Earth Europe / Lode Saidanne via Flickr.
By Rebecca Clark

The US Congress has faced opposition recently from environmental groups in the face of pending trade deals. Environmentalists are urging politicians to vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) specifically that would place policies protecting air and water conditions in jeopardy.

So why are these particular trade deals so dangerous to our environment? The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TPP and TTIP respectively) would create the possibility for large fossil fuel corporations to challenge US policies that protect the environment.

Those opposing the trade deals urged Congress 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,” in correspondence sent from conservation groups. The Sierra Club, SustainUS, and Friends of the Earth were just some of the groups named in the letter.

Conservationists are also worried about the affect these trade deals will have on the rate of fossil fuel excavation, a subject that is near and dear to the hearts of these groups.

“Science tells us that we need to keep well over 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground,” said Ben Schreiber, climate and energy program director at Friends of the Earth. “No one can be a climate champion and support trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which provides polluters with a new corporate bill of rights and impedes our ability to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

Warnings from many key environmentalists names the TTP specifically as a trade deal that would harm the key areas work they are trying to accomplish for the environment.

“Property rights are under constant threat by big corporations,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Alliance president. “The TPP will create a scenario for landowners where they are at the mercy of Big Oil and Big Gas to do whatever they want with our land and water using secret courts and backroom deals. Americans deserve land security and it starts with saying no to the TPP handout to big corporations.”

“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,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “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.”

Furthermore, it would appear that it is not just the environment at stake, according to experts:
“The TPP would severely threaten the ability for Indigenous peoples on both sides of the Pacific to self-determine the future of their nations and citizens’ lives,” said Dallas Goldtooth, national campaign organiser for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “This trade deal offers nothing but the continuation of extraction and colonialism and utterly disregards Indigenous Peoples rights to free, prior and informed consent.”

It would appear that these trade agreements, in the face of expert testimony, do not lend themselves to the war against pollution, climate change and even human rights. Factors which go against the goal set in Paris of rapid decarbonisation. While the TPP is already facing negative views from environmentalists, experts, the public as well as Bernie Sanders who was vying to be the Democratic Presidential candidates before endorsing Hillary Clinton, the vote in Congress may indeed come during this year.

In Europe, environmental groups have also voiced fierce opposition against TTIP.

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