New fact sheet on the environmental impacts of trade agreements

We are facing a climate emergency. Global warming is predicted to exceed the 1.5-degree limit that was agreed in the Paris Agreement by as early as 2030. The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the world. A new report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has called for radical action. To stay below 1.5 degrees we must reduce global emissions by 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Australia has one of the highest per capita emissions rates in the world, and our emissions are continuing to rise. Urgent action must be taken to transform our energy systems and economy. The domestic obstacles are many. What is often overlooked is the role that trade agreements can play in increasing greenhouse emissions and restricting governments from taking action to address climate change and protect the environment.
Trade and investment rules can impact on the environment by:
  • encouraging the expansion of harmful forms of international trade, which can increase greenhouse gas emissions
  • facilitating an expansion in the production of dirty commodities like fossil-fuels or palm oil
  • promoting carbon-intensive agriculture
  • restricting governments’ ability to implement policies needed to protect the environment and to transition to a low-carbon economy
  • restricting the transfer of green technology
AFTINET is calling for a new approach to trade and investment policy that is environmentally sustainable and supports the transition to a low-carbon economy in Australia and globally. To achieve this, trade and investment agreements must:
  • Be transparent and democratic: Negotiating texts must be published for public and parliamentary scrutiny during trade negotiations. The final text of the agreement must be released for independent assessment, including assessment of environmental impacts, before signing and the full agreement should be put to a vote in Parliament.
  • Comply with international environmental law: Agreements must contain enforceable environmental standards and a commitment to the supremacy of international environmental law. Provisions that have negative environmental impacts or restrict action to address climate change must be removed from agreements.
  • Exclude investor-state dispute settlement provisions: ISDS provisions must be excluded from Agreements and corporations must not be empowered to use trade and investment agreements to restrict government action to address environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Preserve the right to regulate: Governments must not be prevented from developing more stringent environmental regulation and alternative energy and economic policies, or from using subsidies, local content rules, tariffs and other policy tools to support the transition to renewable energy and low-carbon production.
  • Promote sustainable agriculture: Intellectual property rules must not restrict the right of farmers to store and exchange seeds, and Governments must retain the flexibility to use trade policy tools to develop and protect local food markets.
  • Enable the reduction of dirty commodities: Agreements must not prevent governments from using tariff and non-tariff measures to limit trade in dirty commodities and to restrict the production, trade and consumption of fossil fuels.
  • Include flexibilities for sharing green technologies: Intellectual property rules must be adapted to ensure they do not restrict access to green technologies. Governments should not be restricted from using compulsory licensing for green technologies.