Climate Justice Must Include Trade Justice (And Vise Versa)
The tragic role that free trade agreements have played in offshoring millions of U.S. jobs is all too familiar to our state’s working families. Much less understood is the role that trade deals also play in undermining climate solutions.
At their core, free trade agreements are about prohibiting government restrictions on the movement of goods across borders. This includes a prohibition on any government action that limits trade in fossil fuels, whether directly or indirectly. Oil and gas companies have already used U.S. trade and investment agreements to challenge a moratorium on fracking; to demand permits for the Keystone XL pipeline; and to overturn court orders on the clean-up of oil spills.
Beyond just facilitating more fossil fuel development, trade pacts have also been used to challenge clean energy initiatives as a violation of “free trade” principles. For instance, the World Trade Organization recently ruled against solar panel incentive programs in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and Washington.
We won’t be able to head off the worst of the climate crisis with one hand tied behind our back. Trade agreements must be renegotiated immediately to add strong, binding climate standards across borders and to explicitly allow communities to adopt even stronger climate measures free from challenge as a trade deal violation.