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Canada and the European Union could help the climate by cancelling CETA

The Council of Canadians says that Canada and the European Union could work together to address climate change by scrapping the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

On CBC Radio’s The House this weekend, Miguel Arias Canete, the European Union’s commissioner on climate action and energy, said, “The close alliance of Canada and the European Union will be very useful to maintain the spirit of Paris and support the enforcement of the Paris rules in the future.”

By that he meant Canada and the EU could play an important role as the Trump administration in the United States decides whether to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement as it has promised to do.

The CBC article noting the interview with the EU commissioner highlights, “Canada’s targets are less ambitious than the ones the European Union has put forward. The EU has set its emission reduction target at 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, while Canada’s 2030 emissions reduction target is 30 per cent below 2005 levels.”

The Liberals had promised during the October 2015 election campaign “to establish national emissions-reduction targets [that] recognise the economic cost and catastrophic impact that a greater-than-two-degree increase in average global temperatures would represent”, but once in government they opted to stay with the Conservative’s weak emission reduction targets.

The Harper government had pledged to reduce carbon emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, but when translated to the more commonly used baseline of 1990 levels, that pledge equals just 14 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 (well below the EU target of a 40 per cent reduction by 2030).

In addition, the projection is that Europe will receive more tar sands bitumen from Canada, especially after the Canadian government pushed hard to derail the European Fuel Quality Directive during CETA talks. That directive was a modest climate measure to reduce emissions from transport fuel by six per cent by 2020. Part of the plan was to assign specific carbon intensities to different types of oil, with tar sands and fracked oil obviously having higher values.

In May 2015, the German-language newspaper Die Zeit reported, “In 2012 Europe imported no more than 4,000 barrels tar sands a day. But it is expected this will increase significantly: in raw form from Canada, or processed into diesel or gasoline from the US. The Natural Resources Defence Council predicts that in 2020 imports will rise to a whopping 725,000 barrels a day.”

And CETA still contains an investor-state Investment Court System provision that can be used against measures to protect the climate.

The February 2016 paper Oil Corporations Vs. Climate: How investors use trade agreements to undermine climate action released by The Council of Canadians and twelve allies stated, “Rather than learning lessons from trade agreements like NAFTA, governments in the United States, the European Union, Canada, and many other countries are now pushing for even more trade and investment agreements that would expand the very tool that TransCanada is using to challenge the rejection of the Keystone KL pipeline: the investor-state dispute settlement system which empowers corporations to sue governments for up to billions of dollars in private trade tribunals.”

And the May 2016 paper Investment Court System put to the test found that the Investment Court System in CETA would still allow the most controversial Chapter 11 investor-state dispute settlement challenges launched under NAFTA to proceed.

While Trump poses a threat to addressing the climate crisis, so does CETA. To call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the trade critics of all federal parties to stop the passage of C-30, the implementation act for CETA, please see our online action alert Tell Trudeau: No rubber stamp for CETA!

The Council of Canadians has also called for a provision in United Nations climate change agreements that would prohibit investor-state dispute settlement challenges by corporations against government measures that address the climate change crisis. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “Without such a carve-out governments face an incentive to avoid climate change action in order to limit potential liability due to actual or anticipated ISDS claims.” The COP23 climate summit will take place in Bonn, Germany this coming November 6-17.