Trade deals and the climate

Climate and the UK/US trade deal

You probably know about the talks going on with the US right to secure Boris Johnson’s promised trade deal. It’s getting lots of publicity over food standards and threats to the NHS. It’s largely designed to benefit large companies which has openly declared that they want to lower regulatory standards which are ‘barriers to trade’. But did you know that it’s a serious threat to effective action on the climate? Or that there will be no parliamentary scrutiny?

When the UK negotiators raised the issue of climate change last year, they were bluntly told that the issue was off limits in any potential deal because it is too politically sensitive and a “lightning rod issue”.

The main problem for climate initiatives (but not the only one) is the introduction of a special legal system for companies to protect investments even potential ones.

The system of Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) sets up a separate court system, heavily weighted towards big business and which often impose enormous fines. They are only concerned with investments and not with environmental or social concerns. There have already been cases where countries have had to pay huge fines for switching to green energy schemes, banning fracking or imposing stricter environmental controls.

In other cases, projects have not gone ahead because of fears of expensive court cases or protests have been called off.

There have been huge protests against ISDS in the past, but if the government agrees to this system it could seriously limit our freedom to switch to a greener economy.

The Netherlands recently took the decision to phase out coal power in the light of climate change, and promptly a German energy company, Uniper, has started threatening to sue in a corporate court. You can watch a video about the case here.

To find out more

Why trade matters in the climate breakdown

Five reasons modern trade deals are terrible for the climate 

How trade deals affect the environment

To take action

Sign the Global Justice Now petition here