Canadian NGOs and labour unions have sent an amicus curiae submission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the eve of a second hearing tomorrow into Japan’s and the European Union’s joint attack on the Ontario Green Energy Act. The groups address Canada’s failure to properly defend Ontario’s actions and call upon the WTO to respect the priority of Canada’s international climate change obligations.
“These are the first international trade disputes which create the potential for conflict between a nation’s commitments under the WTO and its obligations under the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. It raises fundamental questions about whether the goals of trade liberalization can be reconciled with ecological imperatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and if not, which are to prevail,” says the joint amicus curiae submission from Blue Green Canada, the Canadian Auto Workers, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union of Canada, the Council of Canadians and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
Canada, the EU and Japan are signatories to the Framework Convention and Kyoto Protocol, which seek to avert catastrophic climate change. Unfortunately, say the Canadian civil society groups, the Harper government is playing into Japan’s and EU hands by ignoring these international climate change treaties. In fact, having recently repudiated its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, Canada has threatened to use the WTO to challenge climate measures such as fuel quality standards in the United States and EU.
The Canadian NGOs and labour unions involved in the amicus curiae submission have a strong presence and hundreds of thousands of members in Ontario, including those in the green energy sector. They support the phase-out of coal-fired electrical power generation and the development of renewable energy infrastructure and power generation to replace it.
“In simple terms, Ontario’s Feed In Tariff program for renewable power is a perfect expression of the principles of sustainable development in which environmental and economic goals are married to address the imperatives of climate change,” says their submission to the WTO, which was prepared by Steven Shrybman, international trade and public interest lawyer with Sack, Goldblatt Mitchell LLP.
The Canadian NGOs and labour unions insist that the WTO should resist efforts by countries like Japan, the EU and Canada to enlist its dispute procedures to defeat or discourage climate measures. WTO dispute panels must recognize and accede to the jurisdiction and competence of multi-lateral institutions and instruments, including the Kyoto Protocol, designed to address the climate change imperative.