Wikileaks Releases And Environmental Causes

Wikileaks Releases And Environmental Causes

Above Photo: Jumanji Solar/Flickr

WikiLeaks’ publication of more than 10 million documents has shed much-needed light on every corner of corporate and governmental secrecy. Within these files are scores of revelations about the ways in which the world’s most influential governments and corporations have put profit and power above environmental protections, undermining climate agreements, protecting their interests, and covering up environmental abuses.

These disclosures, uncovering what the most powerful have wanted to keep secret, have given fuel to environmental activists working to force these countries and companies to stick to climate agreements, curb emissions, and slow the devastating effects of global warming.

WikiLeaks also inspired EcoLeaks, a platform for whistleblowers to expose environmental secrets:

“The revolution that Julian Assange began with WikiLeaks inspired us to follow his lead – creating an organization dedicated to the environmental action front, as that field is so large and so urgent that it requires its own outlet to facilitate leakers.”

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THE MINTON REPORT:
TRAFIGURA’S TOXIC DUMPING ALONG THE IVORY COAST

The Minton Report is a scientific study commissioned by oil trading company Trafigura, detailing how the Dutch multinational had dumped toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, affecting 108,000 people and “capable of causing severe human health effects” according to a UN report. The UK media has been suppressed from mention the report or its contents via a secret gag order issued against The Guardian newspaper on September 11, 2009, which was abandoned after 5 weeks as the company’s lawyers gave up on attempts to keep it secret.

CABLEGATE: US DIPLOMATIC CABLES

Cablegate, now part of the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PLUSD), was the publication of 250,000 US State Department cables, chiefly from 2000-2009, exposing the US’ view of its  diplomatic relations with every country around the world. The releases uncovered the ways in which the US exploits less powerful countries, often on behalf of major corporations.

Reasons behind the failure of Copenhagen climate talks

The two-week, U.N.-led conference, ended with a non-legally binding agreement to limit global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times, but did not lay out how to achieve that. Despite months of preparation and strenuous international diplomacy, the talks boiled down to an inability of the world’s two largest emitters, the United States and China, to agree on headline fixed targets, according to a report made by Reuters. WikiLeaks releases shed light on some of the reasons behind this failure.

US tactics to overwhelm the opposition to Copenhagen accord

As reported by The Guardian, the US diplomatic cables revealed that US sought dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming. Acting on the request made by the CIA, the US State Department sent a secret cable on 31 July 2009 seeking human intelligence from UN diplomats across a range of issues, including climate change and naming specific countries of interest. The cables also show how financial and other aid is used by the US to gain political backing and give insight into a secret global diplomatic offensive it launched to overwhelm opposition to the controversial “Copenhagen accord”, the unofficial document that emerged from the ruins of the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009. Spiegel wrote that the US negotiator “more-or-less forced an ambassador from the Maldives to take millions of dollars in assistance” and that he also noted that this will help other nations “to realize that there are advantages to be gained by compliance”. Democracy Now reported about the US cutting funding to Bolivia and Ecuador, whose governments opposed the Accord.

France argued against a legally binding international treaty

One of the releases revealed that Jean-Louis Borloo, French Minister for Sustainable Development at the time, has expressed opinion that the key to advancing climate negotiations is to drop the notion of a legally binding treaty in favour of a system of national commitments. Borloo insisted that UNFCCC COP negotiators did not have the ability to close a deal after years of ongoing negotiations and that it is up to certain heads of states to come together and agree on an implementation plan for Copenhagen, which will be largely acceptable to, and accepted by, the rest of the world.

China was angered by an insistence from Europe it should cut its carbon intensity

The cables give insight into opinions of US diplomats on the role China played in the talks, which they find to be positive, especially in maintaining cohesion among developing countries. They also point out to the fact that Chinese negotiators were angered by the fact that “Europeans ‘played a lot of tricks’ and took advantage of their ‘united front’ to endeavor to push China to increase its carbon intensity reductions to an unacceptable level of 60 percent.”

The revelations served to inform and empower environmental activist and groups, who have fiercely criticized the talks and its results:

Greenpeace UK Executive Director, John Sauven:

“It is now evident that beating global warming will require a radically different model of politics than the one on display here in Copenhagen.”

350.org Founder, Bill McKibben:

WikiLeaks cables show that “the U.S. was both bullying and buying countries into endorsing their do-little position on climate.”

US diplomatic efforts to overturn EU and developing countries’ resistance to genetically modified foods

The leaked cables expose US diplomatic efforts, in countries where Catholic bishops have been vehemently opposed to genetically modified foods, including many developing countries and some European states such as France, Italy, and the Vatican, to reconsider their position. Cables show how U.S. officials were pushing Bishops to change their attitude — to think about the potential that they might be able to feed more hungry people if GMO crops were to boost harvests. By far the most aggressive suggestion comes from Craig Stapleton, the Bush administration’s ambassador to France at the time. He is cited in a cable from 2007 advising the U.S. to prepare for a trade war over GMO crops. He recommends, quote, “we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the E.U.” Another striking thing about these communications around agriculture is the degree to which the U.S. was advised by and acting on behalf of just one company—and that company is Monsanto.

Food and Water Watch, a global watchdog organization analyzed a total of 926 diplomatic cables, sent between 2005 and 2009, containing the words “biotech” or “GMO” and concluded that they “reveal a concerted strategy to promote agricultural biotechnology overseas, compel countries to import biotech crops and foods they do not want, and lobby foreign governments — especially in the developing world — to adopt policies to pave the way to cultivate biotech crops.”

Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter:

“It really gets down to twisting the arms of countries and working to undermine local democratic movements that may be opposed to biotech crops, and pressuring foreign governments to also reduce the oversight of biotech crops.”

TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP: ENVIRONMENT CHAPTER

The leaked secret draft of the TPP’s Environment Chapter (along with the TPP’s Environment Chairs Report) underscores how multinational corporate interests rule the negotiating process of this important 12-nation treaty, representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP and one-third of world trade.

Protecting trade over environment and investors over communities

The Environment Chapter clearly shows the intention to first and foremost protect trade, not the environment. The principle is spelled out in this draft that local environmental laws are not to obstruct trade or investment between the countries. The most egregious threat to the environment, wrote TruthDig, is found in the Agreements Investment Chapter, in particular in the prior consent of negotiating parties to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, that allow foreign investors to sue governments over loss of prospective profits.

Measures are voluntary not binding and include no enforcement mechanisms

When compared against other TPP chapters, the Environment Chapter is noteworthy for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures. The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. Numerous environmental groups have voiced their opposition to the Agreement, among others, WWF CEO Carter Roberts has said: “The lack of fully-enforceable environmental safeguards means negotiators are allowing a unique opportunity to protect wildlife and support legal sustainable trade of renewable resources to slip through their fingers.”

The releases fueled the opposition against the Agreement, including from a host of environmental groups:

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune:

“We now have concrete evidence that the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens our families, our communities, and our environment. It’s no surprise that the deal is rife with polluter giveaways that would undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate, and fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write the deal. The words ‘climate change’ don’t even appear in the text, a dead giveaway that this isn’t a 21st-century trade deal. It sets us back further, empowering fossil fuel corporations to challenge our public health and climate safeguards in unaccountable trade tribunals while increasing dirty fossil fuel exports and fracking.

Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark:

“Now that the text of the Trans-Pacific-Partnership is available to the public, it is disappointingly clear that this is not the tougher language we had hoped for. The environment chapter is weak and fails to provide the necessary requirements and stronger penalties desperately needed to better fight poaching, protect wildlife habitat and shut down the illegal wildlife trade. The agreement also leaves our own domestic environmental laws vulnerable to legal challenge internationally, outside of our own judiciary system (…) Most alarmingly, climate change isn’t mentioned a single time in the environment chapter. Climate change is happening right now: Species are disappearing and extreme weather events like hurricanes, crippling drought and wildfires are becoming more prevalent across the world. Yet this trade agreement won’t even acknowledge it.”

Natural Resources Defense Council International Program director Jake Schmidt:

“This trade agreement would allow foreign corporations to challenge our health, safety and environmental protections in a foreign tribunal outside our legal system, and it would weaken those bedrock safeguards in the United States. While there are some positive conservation measures, the agreement’s substantial shortcomings should lead Congress to reject it.”

 

TRANSATLANTIC TRADE AND INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP

The leaked documents reveal that the Agreement threatens to jeopardize EU environmental and consumer protections and standards, as it proposes to undermine hard-won climate commitments, such as European efforts to save energy and switch to clean power.

EU negotiators appear to break environmental pledge in leaked draft

As reported by The Guardian, the leaked EU’s draft text for a trade and sustainable development chapter is proposing to undermine hard-won climate commitments. Despite the bloc’s promise to safeguard green laws, defend international standards and protect the EU’s right to set high levels of environmental protection, the Chapter contains only vaguely phrased and non-binding loosely worded commitments to environmental safeguards with an unclear dispute settlement mechanism.

Proposed ISDS mechanisms threaten EU’s environment standards

The Investor-State Disputes Settlement (ISDS) provide unprecedented powers to US corporations over any new public health, safety and environmental regulations to be introduced in future. This means that if any European government brings in laws to raise social or environmental standards, TTIP grants US investors the right to sue for loss of profits in their own corporate court system that is unavailable to domestic firms, governments or anyone else. This is especially alarming since, according to Friends of the Earth Europe environmental cases accounted for 60% of the 127 ISDS cases already brought against EU countries under bilateral trade agreements in the last two decades.

Leaked TTIP energy proposal could ‘sabotage’ EU climate policy

EU proposal text of the TTIP’s energy chapter could curb energy saving measures and a planned switch to clean energy. A leak obtained by The Guardian shows that the EU will propose a rollback of mandatory energy savings measures, and introduce obstacles to any future pricing schemes designed to encourage the uptake of renewable energies. Environmental protections against fossil fuel extraction, logging and mining in the developing world would also come under pressure from articles in the proposed energy chapter. Other analysis point out how the pledge, made in May 2016 by G7 minister at a summit in Japan, to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidiesby 2025 – which currently run at $10m (£7.5m) a minute – would also be severely undermined by the proposed text.

The releases fueled opposition against the agreement, including from a host of environmental groups:

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune:

“We now have concrete evidence that the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens our families, our communities, and our environment. It’s no surprise that the deal is rife with polluter giveaways that would undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate, and fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write the deal. The words ‘climate change’ don’t even appear in the text, a dead giveaway that this isn’t a 21st-century trade deal. It sets us back further, empowering fossil fuel corporations to challenge our public health and climate safeguards in unaccountable trade tribunals while increasing dirty fossil fuel exports and fracking.”

Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark:

“Now that the text of the Trans-Pacific-Partnership is available to the public, it is disappointingly clear that this is not the tougher language we had hoped for. The environment chapter is weak and fails to provide the necessary requirements and stronger penalties desperately needed to better fight poaching, protect wildlife habitat and shut down the illegal wildlife trade. The agreement also leaves our own domestic environmental laws vulnerable to legal challenge internationally, outside of our own judiciary system (…) Most alarmingly, climate change isn’t mentioned a single time in the environment chapter. Climate change is happening right now: Species are disappearing and extreme weather events like hurricanes, crippling drought and wildfires are becoming more prevalent across the world. Yet this trade agreement won’t even acknowledge it.”

Natural Resources Defense Council International Program director Jake Schmidt:

“This trade agreement would allow foreign corporations to challenge our health, safety and environmental protections in a foreign tribunal outside our legal system, and it would weaken those bedrock safeguards in the United States. While there are some positive conservation measures, the agreement’s substantial shortcomings should lead Congress to reject it.”

 

TRADE IN SERVICES AGREEMENT

The publications touch on issues of crucial relevance to environmentalist agenda, including the regulation of energy, industrial development, workers’ rights and the natural environment. They reveal that negotiating parties see environmental protections as “barriers” to free trade and that the Agreement does not distinguish clean energy from coal or fracking and shifts power over energy standards and regulations from governments to corporations.

Environment related Services — Environmental protections as “barriers” to free trade

Assessing the leaked text of the “Environment related Services Annex”, Friends of the Earth calls TiSA “an environmental hazard” and points out that TiSA focuses on lowering regulatory “barriers” to international trade in services and that such “barriers” include environmental protections, such as those related to water, energy, sanitation and transportation among many others. In the alleged interest of making trade easier, environmental regulations are at risk of being “harmonized down” to the lowest common denominator, and public services of an environmentally-sensitive nature are in danger of being privatized.

Energy related services — Free Fracking Agreement

The “Energy Related Services Annex Proposal: Questions and Answers” document sets out TiSA designs to create an international market in energy-related services for foreign suppliers. The analysis made by independent experts has found that the Agreement:

    1. establishes as Article 1 a principle of “technological neutrality” whereby commitments would extend across all energy sectors regardless of the fuel source or technology, denying regulators the right to distinguish solar from nuclear, wind from coal, or geothermal from fracking;
    2. reduces states’ sovereignty over energy resources by requiring states to establish free markets for foreign suppliers of energy related services thereby removing the right to ensure domestic economic benefits from exploiting energy resources.
    3. shifts political power over energy and climate policies from people using their governments for shaping fair and sustainable economies to global corporations using TiSA for restricting governments from regulating energy markets, companies, and industry infrastructure.

Numerous environmental organizations, NGOs, unions and citizens have protested the agreement:

Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica:

“It is hypocritical for President Obama and other leaders of developed economies to meet in Paris to address climate change when their trade ministers are secretly crafting a Trade in Services Agreement which would undermine initiatives to cut carbon emissions. Regulations of emissions in the aviation and maritime sectors, in particular, are at risk. Big oil services companies, water services multinationals, tar sands pipeline companies, exporters of fossil fuels and other corporate polluters are beneficiaries of TiSA. President Obama and other heads of state are their willing handmaidens.”

Our World is Not For Sale (OWINFS) letter, signed by 345 CSOs from all over the world:

The TISA negotiations largely follow the corporate agenda of using “trade” agreements to bind countries to an agenda of extreme liberalization and deregulation in order to ensure greater corporate profits at the expense of workers, farmers, consumers and the environment.

Source Article from https://popularresistance.org/wikileaks-releases-and-environmental-causes/

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