TPP Impacts: On the Environment (Workshop by Sanya Reid Smith)

There is an environmental chapter in the TPPA, but the language is weak and vague. It also does not address pressing issues like climate change. Potential negative impacts by the TPP on the environment come mainly from ISDS, where investors can sue governments for lessening their profits through environmental regulations. The investment chapter overrides the environmental chapter if there are conflicts.

This series is brought to you by based on a recent NGO briefing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Malaysia by Ms Sanya Reid Smith, an expert on Trade and Investment Rules. She has been monitoring the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) since 2011, and is also the resource expert for Bantah TPPA Malaysia. The entire talk is uploaded on YouTube in a seven part series and can be accessed here; this article is drawn mainly from Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the talk. The index of the series is attached at the end of the article.

Video starts at 11:00

Canada: Tried to comply with environmental treaty but got sued

For those who want to know about the environment, in Canada they tried to comply with the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, and so they put a moratorium on the waste going out, to see if they were complying with the convention. For sixteen months they didn’t let it go out. The investor who wanted the waste to process, sued the Canadian Government, under the same provisions basically that Malaysia has agreed to in the TPP. And they won. The lost profits they would have made for the sixteen-month moratorium – even though Canada was doing it to check compliance with an international environment treaty. Malaysia has also joined this Convention by the way, and it’s not clear that Malaysia can still comply with this environmental treaty anymore. So even when you do it to comply with an environment treaty, or your human rights treaty, it doesn’t get you off the hook, the investor can still sue and can still win.

Video starts at 15:04

Germany: Sued twice, by company with coal and nuclear power plants

The German government got sued twice recently, and they’ve learnt their lesson. The first time was a coal-fired power plant, that was in Hamburg or somewhere there. It was set up a few years ago, then the Stern Report came out on climate change. The German government read it and said, “ah! Alamak, there’s a thing called climate change. We’d better start restricting our coal-fired power plants, require them to do some environmental stuff.” They got sued by the power plant. And they settled. They removed their environmental requirements. The German government told the power plant, “OK, you carry on.”

The second time the German government got sued, by the same company, was after Fukushima. Remember the Fukushima nuclear disaster? After that, nuclear power became very unpopular in Germany, nobody wanted it anymore. The government listened to the people. Democracy. They said, “ok ok, we phase out nuclear power. We don’t stop it tomorrow, but we don’t renew the power plants’ contracts.” They got sued for four billion euros, by one company that has two power plants or something, not even all the power plants. That case has not yet been decided, but it’s caused such a ruckus in the German Government that they now say “maybe we shouldn’t agreed to this ISDS with the Americans in the transatlantic free trade agreement.”

Video starts at 8:38

Malaysia: Could be sued by foreign investors like Lynas

For those of you who think a new government elected will stop Lynas, kick them out – Lynas has shareholders from TPP countries. If you kick them out, if they had a license say for 20 years, and every year they were going to make a million dollars, and now you stop them, eg a newly-elected government on a platform to stop Lynas: ‘Democracy, in action, I kick out Lynas since I’ve been elected’. Lynas can say ‘well I would have made a million dollars for each of the remaining 20 years of my permit. Now I can’t make my million dollars a year, I have lost profits of 20 million dollars, you pay me back the 20 million dollars I would have made, because you canceled my permit.’

Video starts at 14:30

Environmental chapter is weak

There is an environment chapter. The environment chapter of course has only the environmental things the US wants. It does not require them to cut their climate change emissions. It does not require them to join the Convention on Biological Diversity. It’s just the environmental treaties that the US likes, like CITES on endangered species.

Fisherfolk may lose their subsidies

Along the way it looks like they removed fishing subsidies, because it’s bad for the environment. But in Malaysia the fisherfolk are quite poor lah, they need fishing subsidies, even if the oil one is not working very well lah, maybe some other kind, and it looks like they can’t have fishing subsidies anymore because it’s bad for overfishing.

Index of the Series

This series contains 20 articles on the TPP, and can be read in any order:

Transcriptions are kept chiefly ad verbatim, with some minor edits for readability. The text has also been checked by Ms Smith for accuracy.

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