On Canada, trade and climate change
COMMENT: This was written by Brent Patterson of the Council of Canadians. It brings together five recent events or publications:
- a letter from Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt to California Gov. Schwarzegger attacking the Low Carbon Fuel Standard as an “unfair trade barrier” if it discriminates against the tar sands
- a speech by Environment Minister Jim Prentice to the Council of Americas (a US business group which lobbies for free trade) in which he criticized carbon adjustment fees as "trade protectionism"
Only a week ago Trade Minister Stockwell Day joined the Raitt-Prentice chorus when he proposed a draft procurement agreement which would become an adjunct to NAFTA. He wants to tie the provinces and municipalites to the same rules as the federal government with respect to provincial purchasing and contracting - a direct response to recent US "Buy America" conditions in proposed legislation.
What the heck is so wrong with trade protection policies anyway? We do what we can to protect our environment, our health, our community and society, and indeed we do what we can to protect our economies. Signing away all rights to do that, by trade and investment freedom agreements, is inimical to wise domestic economic stewardship. Governments need to be able to utilize all the available policy and regulatory tools.
A joint media release from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) states that, "The WTO/UNEP report on 'Trade and Climate Change' published today examines the intersections between trade and climate change from four perspectives: the science of climate change; economics; multilateral efforts to tackle climate change; and national climate change policies and their effect on trade."
"National policies, from traditional regulatory instruments to economic incentives and financial measures, have been used in a number of countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to increase energy efficiency. ...The report also reviews extensively two particular types of pricing mechanisms that have been used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: taxes and emissions trading systems."
The Globe and Mail editorial board writes today that, "(The report says) 'border adjustment measures' – in other words, new trade barriers with real or ostensible environmental purposes – that are elements of cap-and-trade or carbon-tax schemes ...may well be justifiable under international trade law."
"Most notably for the economic interests of Canadians, the Waxman-Markey bill ...is not only an attempt to put a price on carbon emissions in the United States, but also tries to price the emissions that have gone into the making of goods elsewhere that are imported in the U.S – if that has not already been accomplished in the country of origin..."
"Likewise, emissions-reducing measures are apt to include subsidies to energy production that results in a lesser amount of greenhouse gases. These subsidies ...may similarly turn out to be quite defensible in WTO or NAFTA litigation."
The Council of Canadians has highlighted that Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt wrote California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in April about the now-passed Low Carbon Fuel Standard calling it an “unfair trade barrier” if Alberta’s tar sands is "discriminated" against as a high carbon intensity crude oil.
And Environment Minister Jim Prentice recently told U.S. lawmakers “carbon-border adjustment” fees designed to prevent carbon pollution outside of the U.S. from undermining American measures to reduce emissions were “trade protectionism” in the name of environmental protection and a prescription for disaster for the global economy and the environment.
Council of Canadians energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue has written, "These comments and others made by Canadian officials exhibit a disconcerting pattern to use trade-based threats to dissuade U.S. policy measures that would benefit the environment by reducing oil exports from Alberta’s environmentally destructive tar sands to U.S. markets."
The WTO/UNEP media release and report are at http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/pres09_e/pr559_e.htm.
Our 'ACTION ALERT: Tell the Harper government to stop the trade-based threats and start getting serious about the tar sands' is at http://www.canadians.org/action/2009/12-June-09.html.