Credit for the following content goes to Cam Walker at Friends Of the Earth. Content sourced from this webpage [link]
The Final TPP text, released on Thursday night, confirms all of our worst fears. The Environment Chapter is weak and lazy, encouraging rather than enforcing any regulations that may otherwise have served to protect the natural environment.
The General Commitments outlined at the beginning of the chapter state that nations must “strive to ensure that [their] environmental laws and policies provide for, and encourage, high levels of environmental protection and… continue to improve [their] respective levels of environmental protection”, but also that they must “recognise the sovereign right of each Party to establish its own levels of domestic environmental protection and its own environmental priorities, and to establish, adopt or modify its environmental laws and policies accordingly”. In other words, it would be nice if the participating nations had solid environmental laws, but nothing will be enforced.
This is substantiated in subsequent Articles within the chapter. We find that parties are merely required to “take measures to control” the emissions of substances that negatively affect the ozone layer; “cooperat[ion] to address matters of mutual interest related to ozone-depleting substances” simply suggests information exchange. This language is prevalent throughout the text– information exchange; cooperation; take measures; promote and encourage.
Regarding a strategy to transition to a “Low Emissions and Resilient Economy”, it is noted that “each Party’s actions to transition to a low emissions economy should reflect domestic circumstances and capabilities” – i.e., you can only do what you can do, and no one will challenge you on that. Again, this weak attitude is reflected in sections relating to unregulated fisheries; sharks, marine turtles, seabirds and marine mammals; and illegal capture/killing/logging/trade of flora and fauna.
On top of this overarching failure to protect the natural environment, by far the most gaping hole in the chapter is the phrase “climate change”. Despite the fact that climate change is the greatest threat to the environment, and is not unrelated to an increase in trade, these words are completely absent from the entire chapter, and in fact from the whole agreement.
Outside of the Environment Chapter, the Investment Chapter also contains some serious risks. The inclusion of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause provides foreign corporations with the ability to sue the Australian Government for imposing regulations that may impact that company’s projected future profits.
As has already been witnessed through other more localised trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), ISDS is most commonly utilised to combat laws enacted for environmental protection. If the Australian Government were to come to their senses and attempt to move us away from extractive industries and towards renewables, then foreign corporations may sue our Government under the TPP for implementing moratoriums or bans on fracking, as has already taken place e.g., in the case of Lone Pine Resources vs. Canada. This effectively nullifies any semblance of progressivism exhibited in the Environment Chapter, and potentially hands our sovereignty right over to multinational corporations.